09/22/17 Marc Emery

Reports from Canada re July 2018 efforts to "legalize" cannabis featuring Kevin Sabet from Smart Approaches, Canadian activists Dana Larsen, Marc Emery & Jodie Emery + Doug McVay DTN reporter co-hosts Elinore McCance-Katz, MD, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use in the Department of Health and Human Services; Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Friday, September 22, 2017
Marc Emery
Cannabis Culture



SEPTEMBER 22, 2017


DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. Got a unique show today. I'm traveling to Los Angeles, Anaheim, actually, to attend a major cannabis conference, and I'm calling on my good friend, my compadre in the Drug Truth Network, Mister Doug McVay, to complete the second half hour of this program. But first, let's see what's going on up in Canada.

LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: Joining me now is Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. And, Kevin, the Canadian government has already produced this legislation to legalize cannabis, that's something that you're not so keen on, so what are you going to say to the MPs at the Committee today?

KEVIN SABET: Slow down. I mean, there's no reason why you need to be on an accelerated timeline to introduce a new industry. This is really about creating another tobacco industry. We need to slow down, listen to health experts, education experts, youth experts, vulnerable populations, and really, if it's going to happen, do it much better than the way it's been presented.

LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: So how slow do you have to go to get it right?

KEVIN SABET: Well, I mean, there's a lot of things we need to find out. First of all we need to commence and be dedicated to a data collection project. That hasn't happened at all so far. We need to do a public education campaign. We want to discourage young people from using today's high potency THC marijuana. This isn't the joint that you smoked in college, this is the edibles, the candies, gummy bears, cookies. We need to get that straight. Drugged driving.

What about Canadians that want to go over the border and they're asked if they're bringing marijuana or if they're bringing marijuana or if they've used marijuana recently. There are so many just, things that have to be discussed.

LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: Well, and it's interesting that you brought that up, because that is a question that I gave to one of government's MPs yesterday. Let's listen to what he had to say.

BILL BLAIR: Every sovereign nation has the right and the authority to decide who can come in and out of their country, but, you know, I think it's also very instructive to note that there are two US states that have legalized cannabis, and so, that border traffic goes in both directions, and it's part of an ongoing discussion between our governments.

LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: That's Parliamentary Secretary Bill Blair. What do you make, hearing that, should Canadians be concerned about crossing the border if they've consumed marijuana and have to speak to a border guard.

KEVIN SABET: Yeah, I mean, I do think that they should be. There's going to be a lot of, we don't know where the Trump administration's going to land on this. Look, I don't think people should be arrested, thrown in prison, denied entry into the United States if they've used marijuana. We don't want to go that way.

LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: But there's a risk that that could potentially happen.

KEVIN SABET: There is a risk -- well, this is emblematic of a lot of risks, whether it's drugged driving, whether it's public use, who's protecting the person in the multi-house dwelling. Are you allowed to smoke on your patio? What about second hand smoke? What about a pot shop near a kid's school? All of these are very difficult questions that need to be dealt with before we go forward in the way we're going.

LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: We're going to be talking to Andrew Freeman from Colorado, and he has said that when that state legalized marijuana, there were some surprises, but overall, it went okeh. Is that how you see that state's experience?

KEVIN SABET: Look, it depends -- look, he had a tough job, I mean, he was working for a governor that was, rightfully so, against this, and still I think has a lot of misgivings, but of course has to, you know, he's defending what his state's doing, I get it, but the issue is, depending on how you're looking at it, Colorado's seen an increase in drugged driving, which is the issue of marijuana-related intoxication, more kids getting offenses at schools. There are actually more young people getting arrested for pot, and actually they're black and Hispanic, than white kids right now in Colorado, so there's a disproportionate arrest.

Under legalization you still have to arrest people for using in public and all these things so we haven't seen the social justice aspect, and I would just invite anybody to spend some time in Denver's 16th Street Mall. Is that what you want your neighborhood to smell like and to look like?

LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: What does it look like? Describe it.

KEVIN SABET: Well, I mean, look, I think a lot of people go out of their way not to go be at the hotels there, because of there's a pot shop on every corner, multiple of them, they're clustered, they're advertising, coupons, gummy bear -- not any more gummy bears, but they had that for a while -- cookies, candies, lollipops, and the pungent odor, and, you know, even if you don't care if your neighbor uses it, do you want your kid and you to smell it all the time. Again, what if they're on a patio in an apartment building, there are so many things that we have to discuss, and I, the only people right now laughing all the way to the bank is the industry.

Another tobacco industry, another pharmaceutical, frankly alcohol industry, that will profit off of misinformation, a government that is moving way too quickly on this, and one that's open to these edibles and these other high THC products. They will make a lot of money, the rest of Canada will pay the costs, in drugged driving, lost productivity. What happens to the employer? What if you come to work and you're stoned, but then you claim that was from three days ago but it's still in your system, there are lawsuits happening in Colorado. One construction company in Colorado can't even hire instate employees because they can't pass a drug test. I mean, these are real issues that need to be decided before going forward.

LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: The goal of the government here is to reduce the footprint of organized crime, to make the product safe --


LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: If you're saying you don't want to do that through legalization --


LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: -- what's the other option?

KEVIN SABET: Well, the issue is there's been thousands of recalls in legal states because of contaminants, so the legalization does not guarantee you're going to have contaminant free and safe THC marijuana. By the way it's not safe even if it's -- is contaminant free, but also the issue is the underground market is thriving. In Oregon it's estimated 70 percent of the marijuana market is still coming from the black market even though they've legalized it.

Drug dealers don't go home when you legalize drugs, they innovate, they lower their price, they're able to compete with government. They don't have the restrictions that government does. They can sell to whoever they want, whenever they want, in whatever form they want, so, the black market doesn't magically go away. I can understand wanting to do that, the best way to do that is to reduce cannabis use. Canada has the second highest rate of youth cannabis use in the modern world. Why aren't we talking about the, the emphasis on the brain, how this is really going to hurt a young person's chances, getting a job in the 21st century.

Let me tell you right now, China, India, the countries Canada is competing against in the 21st century marketplace, they're laughing. I mean, they're looking and saying, please, go ahead and legalize cannabis, we'd love your kids to be high all the time. Ours are going to be getting your jobs. That's an issue.

LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: The government though would argue that the higher penalties --


LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: -- for selling to youth --

KEVIN SABET: Lower them.

LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: -- would be --

KEVIN SABET: No. Where the penalties [inaudible]

LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: -- that higher penalties would mean --

KEVIN SABET: Right. Oh, I see.

LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: -- that that is making it something that adults do, and deterring the young people.

KEVIN SABET: How are we doing with alcohol on that? Are kids under 19 drinking? Of course they are, I mean, when it's normalized, when it's a badge of adulthood, when it's in your face, this is something you want to do, so I don't, I -- look, don't put people in prison for it, but don't commercialize it, either.

LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: How closely will you be watching what happens next in Canada?

KEVIN SABET: Very, very closely

LYNDSAY DUNCOMBE: Thank you very much. That's Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: That was courtesy of Canada's CBC.

Here testifying before the Canadian House of Commons Health Committee on the Cannabis Act, Bill C-45, is Canadian activist and grower Dana Larsen.

COMMITTEE CHAIR BILL CASEY: Okeh, for Sensible BC, Mister Larsen.

DANA LARSEN: Well, thank you very much. I'll take my full 10 minutes. Thanks for having me at this committee. I've been a cannabis activist for all of my adult life. I run a cannabis dispensary, and I've probably sold more cannabis than all the other witnesses combined. And, it's good to be here today, but I have to say that I have my doubts that this committee will actually act upon the evidence that is being brought before them and the testimony they're hearing.

And I say that because I've been at this a long time, and when I first got started as a cannabis activist in the 1990s, the government was introducing the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, to replace the Narcotic Control Act. And at that time, there was a great deal of testimony and hearings, and about two dozen groups came forward, and all of them said that prohibition was a failure, the war on drugs was a failure, we should legalize, end prohibition, approach things differently.

The only group who supported that legislation was the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association. Everyone else was against it. The government said we're going to pass this law, and then we'll have a drug policy review afterwards. Well, that review never happened. Canada's Senate took it upon themselves and they issued a comprehensive and detailed report on cannabis that, a five volume report, that remains probably one of the best analyses of cannabis and cannabis policy today, in 2002.

That report was also completely ignored, and I would in fact encourage committee members to take a look at that Senate report from 2002, because it is an incredible document. And they recommended legalization of cannabis for all Canadians over the age of 16. These were conservative Senators, not a bunch of pot smokers, and they recommended legalization for everyone over the age of 16, and that was ignored.

The year I was born, 1971, the LeDain Commission recommended decriminalizing cannabis possession and cultivation, and working towards legalization, and that was also ignored.

So, for all of my life, I've seen our government listen to testimony, issue, do research, have studies, talk to people, and then ignore the results, and I hope that doesn't happen here today.

The Cannabis Act is a bad piece of legislation. It is flawed in a great many ways. It doesn't even decriminalize the joint that I have in my pocket now, that I'm going to smoke after this committee hearing. The idea that we're going to have licit and illicit cannabis and that we're going to have the police trying to decide which cannabis is not good, is simply not going to work.

In cities like Vancouver, where it's already effectively decriminalized, we're not going to see much of a change in policy, but in northern areas, where -- or First Nations communities, or the poor people that are demonized and affected most by cannabis prohibition, you can bet police will be going after them. Where'd you get that cannabis from, that's illicit cannabis, we're going to charge you with possession. It is absurd at a time when we're talking about decriminalizing all drugs, that we're still not even decriminalizing cannabis possession under this legislation.

Now I was asked to speak today about edibles, but to me that's a category that's really too restrictive. We should be also discussing hashish, tinctures, capsules, extracts, creams, drops, suppositories, all the many ways that you can use cannabis. At my dispensary, we sell buds and we sell all these other products, and the buds that we sell is less than half of everything that we sell.

So, when I hear in Ontario they're saying they're going to set up these legal shops right next to the dispensaries, to put them out of business, I think, great. It's not going to effect my clients at all. Ninety-five percent of my customers will continue to shop with me, even if there's a legal shop next door. It's simply not going to have the range of products that are really available and necessary.

So as an activist who wants to see better drug laws in Canada, I don't like this at all, but as a business owner, it's great. This is going to keep me and other dispensaries in business for many, many years to come. This will do nothing to shut down dispensaries or effect the black market at all.

And you know we had a pretty major court case, the Owen Smith case, Kirk Tousaw, who spoke yesterday, was the lead lawyer on that case. And the courts ruled that medical patients have a right to access not only smokeable buds, but cannabis in all these other forms, as extracts. Health Canada's response was to allow licensed producers to make cannabis extracts with no more than three percent THC, which is a complete disregard of both the letter and the spirit of that court decision, but it's not surprising, because that's been the attitude of the government and Health Canada for years. Every time we get a court ruling against, to expand the cannabis access, the government and Health Canada takes the most restrictive possible interpretation of that decision.

When the result of this is that the government has lost control over cannabis, and they've lost control for many years now. We've been systematically dismantling Canada's cannabis laws for the last 20 years, beginning with the laws against bongs and vaporizers and pipes, which is still on the books under Section 462.2, that law has never been removed, and yet it would be hard to find a city that doesn't have multiple bong shops in it today.

And we did that in the 1990s, by simply defying the law, opening up bong shops. There was raids and conflict, kind of like now with dispensaries, but after time, police and communities realized that the war on bongs was a failure, that nobody wanted to see it happen, and they gave up. And as a result we've effectively legalized bongs and pipes, seed banks, vapor lounges, and we're on the way to doing it with dispensaries as well, and in many cities we already have.

So, we're not going to follow these laws, and you're creating laws that are simply unenforceable and cannot be -- you're giving the police an impossible task to do, with large aspects of this legislation. I'm currently facing charges for giving away cannabis seeds. I've given away over 7 million viable cannabis seeds over the last two years. I've traveled to 22 cities across Canada the last two years, giving away seeds. And I was charged in Calgary in 2016 for giving away cannabis seeds. They've set aside a three day trial for me at the end of October. Three days in court, in our justice system that is letting alleged murderers and rapists go because they don't have space in our courts, but they're going to make three days for me for a trial for giving away low THC cannabis seeds to those who want them.

I believe those charges will be dropped before they go to trial, because what a waste of time that would be. But the fact is, our courts cannot handle this massive civil disobedience campaign that Canadians have been launching, and it's simply not going to succeed.

And I would like to remind the committee that the origins of Canada's cannabis prohibition and our drug war is not some well intentioned effort to protect public health, or to protect children, any of that. Our war on drugs, the war on opium, and the war on cannabis, began as a racist and ignorant effort to eliminate Chinese people and other racial communities from Canada. That's how it started. There's no question about that, and there's no time since 1908, when the Opium Act was passed, or when cannabis prohibition came in the '20s, and today, when these laws changed from being racist and ignorant and bigoted to being somehow well intentioned and good for our communities. These laws are bad in their origins, and they continue to be terrible today.

The fact is that the war on drugs is really a war on plants. And cannabis may just be the world's greatest plant. There's no other plant that has the nutritional, industrial, social, and medicinal value that cannabis does. But the other -- the other aspects of this war on drugs and the war on plants, and the fact that coca leaf, opium poppy, psilocybin mushroom, peyote cactus, these are all also good plants, with thousands of years of social and cultural use. And the war on drugs is really a war against these plants and against nature, and it's time that it comes to an end.

You want to know who to blame for the fentanyl crisis that we're experiencing across Canada? It's you. It's our Parliament, that has passed these laws that prohibits reasonable access to opiates. The fentanyl crisis is entirely the fault of Canadian policy. We don't have a drug problem in Canada, we have a prohibition problem in Canada, and when we end prohibition, we will see the vast majority of the problems we still see with drug use go away.

Cannabis in fact is not a problem. Cannabis is part of the solution. In Vancouver, we now have two sites that are offering free or discounted cannabis medicines to opiate users as a substitution project, and there's evidence out of the US showing that American states that have access to dispensaries have less opiate use and less opiate overdose deaths than those who do not.

So I believe, from my personal experience and from the research, that cannabis dispensaries are saving lives every day in Canada. I know that my dispensary, people tell me, you helped me get off opiates, you helped me improve my health. You helped save my life. This happens all the time. With alcohol, also, a lot of cannabis people find when they're using alcohol -- they can get off alcohol by using cannabis. Cannabis is a substitution for more dangerous drugs, in so many ways.

It's easy to regulate edibles and extracts. Give them child proof packaging. Make sure that the products are properly labeled, and the dosages are correct. That's easy to do. It's not complicated at all. And further, CBD should really be descheduled entirely and removed from the CDSA. CBD is highly beneficial, there's no psychoactivity at all, it's an incredibly safe medicine, and there's no question that CBD should be removed from the CDSA and allowed entirely.

But, the fact is, we can buy enough alcohol, tobacco, or even aspirin, without, aspirin you can buy without any age limit at a corner store, and one bottle of aspirin can kill you. So the idea that we're treating cannabis so severely and so restrictively when other more dangerous substances are allowed, makes no sense at all, and it really shows the failure of this legislation.

So, I would urge this committee to go beyond cannabis, to accept that cannabis is a good plant, and that prohibition is wrong. To stop handing over this industry to the black market, as you've been doing for so many decades, and to recognize that it's not just cannabis, that the whole war on drugs is an absolute failure, and it's time to legalize and regulate, and put policies in place that are based on the science. We've had this research for forty years or more now, we know that the war on drugs is a failure. We know that cannabis is essentially harmless, and certainly less harmful than the alcohol or tobacco that is used every day.

So, that's what I have to say. Thanks for having me here, and I hope that this committee will listen to the evidence presented and make some serious changes to this legislation. Thank you.

BILL CASEY: Now, we go to Cannabis Culture for ten minutes. I believe Marc Emery, you're going to open for five minutes, and then share five minutes. Okeh.

MARC EMERY: I look forward to the five, Mister Chair. And thank you for inviting us. We are from Cannabis Culture, which is an activist organization since 1994 that's been dedicated to overgrowing this government, which in our language is to legalize this government. I said overgrow, not overthrow. And, it's important, all due respect to this, the health committee, but you know, marijuana's one of the safest substances on earth. I walked down Spark Street and it's safer than every product they're selling there. It's safer than candy, it's safer than eating at McDonald's, it's safer than prescription drugs, tobacco, alcohol, all of which is commonly available on the street.

It's safer than cheerleading in high school, it's safer than football in high school, it's safer than hockey in high school. You could rarely make a more safe choice than choosing to use cannabis for whatever reason. And that's why I think it's wholly unworthy of a Parliament to spend a whole week discussing the health concerns of a substance that has not killed anybody while being supplied by the free market, some call it the black market, for the last 50 years. Imagine, can you conceptualize any other product that hasn't killed anyone in 50 years? Cars kill people all the time, alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, foods kill people, obesity kills people. Everything you do in the society out there, exercising your own bodily autonomy guaranteed to us by the Supreme Court in the Morganthaler case, to control our own bodies.

There are few things you could take that are not more harmful than cannabis. In fact, even government approved water in Waukegan, Ontario, has killed eight people. So water is more dangerous than marijuana, realistically. This should be the Justice Committee, and the reason is, I've been in 36 prisons and jails for pot. I was exiled by my own government for five years to the United States for selling seeds by mail. Can you imagine this country, which was founded on agriculture and farming, and yet I spent five years in jail, co-authorized by my own government, because I sent seeds to willing adults to plant plants?

We've come to this. The Justice Committee should be looking at this, because 2,400,000 Canadians have been criminalized with charges of cannabis offenses since 1965. There's nothing else in this country remotely close to 2.4 million people getting charged for doing something they love, which is growing or selling or consuming marijuana, and harming no one else. If we've got organized crime in there, it's because you created it. Had you not criminalized marijuana, nobody would be handling marijuana except organized, regular retailers in our usual business regime.

So you're the problem. You're at fault. I, we've had prohibition for 93 years. I've never seen Parliament modernize it, or ameliorate that terrible thing in any of that time. I spent three months in Saskatoon Correctional for passing one joint. I was sent to the United States for five years for sending seeds to Americans. I'm not -- and we have done every manner of disobedience. Like I say, I've been arrested probably at least 27 or 8 times, and I've been jailed 36 times. I've been jailed in nine out of 10 provinces for my activism. I've seen prisons in this country, and we need to get rid of this criminalization. And the legalization that everybody really wanted when we thought we were elected Mister Trudeau and his platform was simply the way it was brought in.

In 1923, the Health Minister got up -- sorry, the Justice Minister got up in the Parliament, said Mister Speaker we've added a new drug to the schedule, and that was it. No other discussion, nothing else. So you can legalize it in the exact same way. Mister Speaker, we've removed cannabis from the schedule. That's the only legalization that's really permissible. It's the only one that's really legalization. Everything else is a recriminalization.

In fact, I dare say there are more criminal offenses in the new Cannabis Act than there currently are in the existing legislation. So you're actually broadening it to include more people, with more offenses, and virtually everybody who needs to be legalized, all the growers in this country, all the sellers, and all the consumers, they will still be criminalized under this Cannabis Act. Only licensed producers, a very small minority, are going to be allowed to grow marijuana. You can't possess marijuana that doesn't even come from a licensed producer, or some Ontario government monopoly or Quebec government monopoly, or New Brunswick government monopoly, as they're going.

So now, before at least we were only criminalized. Now we're going to be criminalized and exploited by our own governments. We're going to be used as cash cow, having our own culture usurped from us and handed over to a bunch of bureaucrats and politicians who probably never smoked pot in their life, don't understand anything about these people, don't understand anything about us, and it's a total insult to about five million Canadians who adore this plant, love this plant, use this plant, consume it, sell it, grow it, and have been involved their whole lives like I have in this plant.

And to listen to this kind of discussion, the government that's oppressed us is going to come and be our liberators, and hand us, and dole us out like we're children. Children, we're being condescended to in the worst possible way. We're adults. We make choices. If you're concerned about children, great, deal with that. But for most of the country who smokes marijuana, they're 18 years to 80 years old. Thank you Mister Casey, that's five minutes. I'll let my wife continue, she's going to tell you how great marijuana is.

JODIE EMERY: I'd like to thank you for inviting me to speak here, and I represent, I believe, the victims of prohibition while I'm here. We've heard from a lot of experts and bureaucrats, and a lot of people who have a lot to say, and it's fantastic that we're having this discussion, the idea that we're sitting here today, talking about legalization in this country. It means a lot to me personally. I campaigned for the Liberals as a nomination candidate because I believed in legalization.

Because not only am I currently a victim of prohibition myself, out on bail before you here, after being arrested six months ago, but prior to that I was a drug war widow. I spent years with my husband taken away from me and imprisoned in a foreign country he had never been to, with the Drug Enforcement Administration saying very clearly it was because of his legalization activism, and because he gave millions of dollars to legalization reform groups around the world. That's the DEA's own chief, Karen Tandy, and it's a press release you can easily see. And he says it was for seeds, but the US government says it was for legalization activism.

We're here to talk about legalizing cannabis, which means we should not have any law enforcement concerns. If it's going to be legal, law enforcement should be able to focus on actual crimes with real victims, like rape, assault, murder, theft. I have law enforcement family members. My aunt and uncle are in Alberta with the RCMP, and work with MADD. My sister's also with the Vancouver Police Department. I care about law enforcement. I care about the laws, I care about this country and our citizens.

But our country and these laws, and our citizens, are harmed by this prohibition and by any criminalization of cannabis. Even if cannabis was dangerous, even if it killed people every day and contributed to rape and assault and murder of our young adults all across this country like alcohol does, it shouldn't be illegal.

We should have the free choice to consume or grow or share a plant. That isn't just benign, or neutral. As you've heard, it actually helps people. It actually saves lives. And I know you only have a few minutes here, but I want to try and cite, if you'll read my brief, I submitted ten pages, reduced to five, but let's look at the actual health impact of cannabis.

The American Journal of Medicine in 2013, and the Journal of Health Economics in 2017, said, cannabis use reduces obesity. It results in healthier, thinner consumers. The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2015 said cannabis is medicine. The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012 said a twenty year study found no damage to lungs from cannabis. This is backed up by Doctor Donald Tashkin, who the US government asked to prove it causes lung cancer. They found it actually prevents it. You can go to cancer.gov, the US government says that cannabis and cannabinoids attack and kill cancer cells. They shrink brain cancer cells, that's the Journal of Molecular Cancer Therapies of 2014.

You've got the American Journal of Public Health in 2014 saying that cannabis access reduces suicide rates. My father took his life when I was nine. This gold necklace here was his. I was on antidepressants for many years, and they caused me harm, and we heard just yesterday that antidepressants increase suicide rates by 33 percent. That's why I got off of antidepressants, and I use cannabis instead. I use legal cannabis. Because I'm out on bail so I'm not allowed to go to a dispensary, but I'm going to just show you here, this is a marijuana joint. This is what we're here to talk about. This is cannabis.

And it's not hurting anybody, but I've been inside the US prison system and I'll tell you, I didn't cry for myself or my husband as victims of prohibition. I cried for the children and the mothers and the families who were there, visiting their loved ones. The little babies who saw their daddy on the other side of the visiting room, and they said, why is my daddy here? He didn't hurt anybody? They say prisoners are bad, but my dad, he's not bad, is he? And the moms are trying not to cry, and these little kids are saying mom, please don't cry, please, please be brave.

These are the victims of cannabis prohibition. Cannabis prohibition has far more victims, and far more devastation, than cannabis ever could. And right now we do have a drug crisis in this country, it's the opioid crisis. None of you here have not heard of it. And you have the United States National Institute on Drug Abuse saying that cannabis dispensaries reduce opioid deaths. You've got so much evidence showing that even the Harvard study, of Frontiers of Pharmacology says it improves cognitive functioning. The American Psychological Association in 2015 said teens, even chronic users, do not have later issues.

The British Journal, these find cannabis is the safest substance. So I get emotional here because I've followed the law, every year my husband was incarcerated I had to cross that US border, knowing they could ask me if I use pot and I could be denied the ability to see my husband. And I managed to get through, because I followed the rules as closely as I could. And then we decided to engage in peaceful civil disobedience, just like Doctor Henry Morgentaler, who received the Order of Canada for breaking the law to provide a much needed service. Civil disobedience is the only way we've managed to change these laws in this country with respect to cannabis.

BILL CASEY: I, look, I really appreciate your passion and your commitment to this, and you're going to have lots of chance to answer questions and provide information, but I have to move along to the other speakers.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Clammy skin, pinpoint pupils, shallow or absent breathing, dizziness, sedation, loss of consciousness, nausea, vomiting, weak or absent pulse, heart failure, death. Thousands of deaths. Time's up! Designed to sedate adult elephants, this drug is 100 times more deadly than fentanyl, 10,000 times deadlier than morphine. A portion smaller than a grain of salt can be fatal. The drug lord's dream fulfilled: carfentanyl.

All right, I'm going to turn it over to Mister Doug McVay at this point, but next week, I should have some great stuff for you from the California Cannabis Business Conference. Please give a listen to what Doug has to say, and stand up, speak up, do your part to end the madness of drug war. Please bear in mind that Doug McVay is the editor of Drug War Facts.

Prohibido istac evilesco.

DOUG MCVAY: Thanks, Dean. It’s an honor to join you this week for the second half of Cultural Baggage, the flagship program on the Drug Truth Network. I regularly host the network’s sister program Century Of Lies, a show you created many years ago and each week brings thirty minutes of news and information about the drug war. Well I’d best get started, we’ve got a lot to fit into this second half of Cultural Baggage.

First up, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health is an annual survey conducted by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It's intended to measure the use of various substances by people in the US aged 12 and older, both illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, and also the legal drugs intended for social use, which are alcohol, tobacco, and, in a growing number of states, marijuana. The survey also tries to assess the illegal use of legal prescription drugs.

Obviously, there are problems with any survey of that nature. Hello, we’re conducting a survey on behalf of the federal government and we’d like you to tell us how often and in what ways you break the law, and don’t worry, we’re not going to tell the police, or your employer, or the ex-spouse who wants custody of the kids. You can trust us because we’re the government and we’re just here to help you.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that they can get anyone to admit anything. Heck, people lie all the time about their legal drug use. You know: just had the one beer, only smoke half a pack a day, always take my prescription medications exactly how the doctor said and I never take an extra painkiller or wash any of it down with a shot of whiskey. People just lie.

Still, the NSDUH, as it’s known, is the best tool we have currently for assessing the levels of substance use by adults in the US. These days, the new NSDUH gets released in early September. The feds held a news conference to present an overview of the results. Most of it was officials trying to spin the numbers and justify current policy, but there was a bit in the middle where an agency official actually discussed the results. Here’s that part.

The voice you’re about to hear is that of Elinore McCance-Katz, MD, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use in the Department of Health and Human Services. Audio comes to us courtesy of C-SPAN.

ELINORE MCCANCE-KATZ, MD, PHD: Every year, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, or NSDUH, as we call it, surveys 67,500 Americans about their use of substances, and about their difficulties with symptoms of mental illness.

I want to start by thanking the participants who shared their time with surveyors and had the courage and honesty to share sensitive information and to help shed light on these important issues. You also heard Secretary Price mention our leadership at SAMHSA. It's my privilege to work with these leaders, but I also want to acknowledge our SAMHSA staff, who work very, very hard on the NSDUH every year, and who also work in communities and with our states and stakeholders to improve the behavioral health of the nation.

So I do want to recognize all of the people who work at SAMHSA. I've had the opportunity very recently to meet them, one by one, and I have been very impressed.

So, NSDUH has been completed every year since 1990, and so we have a lot of years of data now. And even though, as Darrell mentioned, the study was redesigned in 2015, there are a number of measures that we're able to trend and they do show consistency from prior years. For example, tobacco and alcohol use are trending downward by age group, and prescription drug misuse also appears to be modestly decreasing.

But there are also areas of concern that we see from the NSDUH, and I'm going to spend my time talking about those areas. But first, let's talk for a minute about the prevalence of mental and substance use disorders in America, and this is data that the NSDUH gives us every year.

What we learned in 2016 is that 18.3 percent of people over the age of 12 in the United States, or 44.7 million people, had a mental illness. And 23 percent of those people had a serious mental illness. Now, when I say serious mental illness, what I mean is that these are people who are diagnosed with a mental illness that is of such a severity that it impairs activities of their lives.

And, in addition, we have another 20 million people, or 7.5 percent of the population, who meet diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder, and when we look more closely at that data, we see that 37 percent of them struggled with illicit drugs, 75 percent of them struggled with alcohol, and 12 percent struggled with both illicit drugs and alcohol.

When we look more closely at the illicit substances used by Americans, what we see is that by far and away, marijuana remains the most frequently used illicit substance in this country, at 13.9 percent of our population, and after that, is psychotherapeutic drugs. Now, psychotherapeutic drugs is a category of prescribed medications that have abuse liability, and there are four categories of those, of those psychotherapeutic drugs. They are stimulants; sedative/hypnotics; anxiolytics/tranquilizers; and opioid medications.

And what you'll see in just a moment is that opioid medications are the majority of the misused psychotherapeutic drugs. You see at the bottom heroin, 948,000 people or 0.4 percent of the population are currently heroin users. If we look, take a deep look, at opioid use in the United States, we see that millions of people are continuing to misuse prescription pain relievers, 11.8 million people were opioid misusers. That's 4.4 percent of our population. And 11.5 million were prescription opioid misusers.

And if we look more closely at the medications that are being used by people who engage in this behavior, we see that the majority are misusing hydrocodone, followed by oxycodone, and then far fewer misuse prescribed formulations of fentanyl, at 228,000. We see 948,000 heroin users, and 641,000 people report that they misuse both heroin and prescription pain medications.

But, when we look at the adverse outcomes that we're seeing from opioids, we can see that it is not driven by increases in numbers of users, and so what we've shown you here is NSDUH data that tells us that for 2016, heroin use is flat in the United States. We're not seeing big increases in the number of heroin users. Similarly for prescription pain relievers, we actually have seen a small decline in the number of people that are misusing prescription pain relievers.

We have about 2.1 million Americans who meet diagnostic criteria for opioid use disorder, and would need treatment for those disorders, and what you see on the right side of the slide is that only 21 percent obtained treatment for their opioid use disorder, and of those 21 percent, 37.5 percent of people that are heroin users got treatment versus only 17.5 percent of people who are prescription pain reliever addicted.

And, that's important, because the other thing that we're seeing is the large, stunning increase in deaths related to heroin use. And so, what I'm showing you here is that NSDUH tells us that in 2002, we had 404,000 Americans that were heroin users. By 2016, that number increases to 948,000. But when we look at deaths from heroin, we see that in 2002, we had just a little over 2,000 deaths, but by 2016, this is estimated data from CDC, it looks like they're going to tell us 13,219 people died of heroin use.

So 230 percent increase in heroin users over that 2002 to 2016 time period, 630 percent increase in deaths. People in this country who are using heroin are being poisoned. This is hugely, hugely concerning, and it really underscores the need that we increase access to treatment, and get people the prevention services, the treatment services, and the recovery services that they need.

I now want to take just a few minutes to talk about another finding that's very concerning from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and that is the prevalence of serious mental illness in young adults. We call them transitional age youth, aged 18 to 25, and what we see here is that in 2008, 3.8 percent had serious mental illness, but that has risen in 2016 to 5.9 percent.

And, we also see that just a little over half of these young adults were able to access treatment. So two million people, and just a little over half of them were able to access treatment for their serious mental illness. These are the most serious disorders, these are the ones that affect people's ability to function, and only half of the people in this age group with those disorders were able to access the care that they needed.

And this has big consequences, because when people have serious mental disorders, they will have increases in adverse consequences, such as suicidality, and what we see from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health is that in this age group, the 18 to 25 year olds, we see a significant increase in serious thoughts of suicide, a significant increase in people making a plan to commit suicide, and a statistically significant increase in the number of people who attempted suicide.

So, why is this happening? The National Survey on Drug Use and Health is a national survey. We can't make inference from it as to why this is happening, but, one thing that we can glean from the National Survey is that we have large numbers of youth that are using illicit substances, 8 million 18 to 25 year olds, 23 percent of that population. There are 38 percent of individuals that are in that age group who engage in binge alcohol use.

Now, when I say binge alcohol use, what I mean is if you're a man, you would drink five or more drinks at a session, and if you're a woman, you'd drink four or more drinks. That's how we define binge alcohol use. And ten percent of this age group are what we define as heavy alcohol users, and those are people who have five or more binges a month.

Why is that important? Because we know that substance misuse and addiction is highly correlated with mental illness. And we know that these disorders frequently co-occur. And so while we don't know for sure that this is what's driving these increases in serious mental illness in this age group, it certainly deserves consideration.

And, we see that for all age groups, and for individuals with both substance use and mental disorders, it's very difficult for them to access treatment. We have to do better. This is data that tells us that we are not getting the job done for the people of America. We see that if you have a substance use disorder, only 7 percent of people got specialty care that they needed. If you had any mental disorder, 57 percent did not receive treatment. Similar findings for people with co-occurring disorders.

For people with serious mental illness, as Secretary Price mentioned, 35 percent get no treatment. These are people who are terribly impaired by mental illness. We have to do better. For youth that are aged 12 to 17, we see significant rates of major depression, and 59 percent of them got no treatment.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Doctor Elinore McCance-Katz presenting the results from the newest National Survey on Drug Use and Health, or NSDUH, at a news conference on September Seventh, audio courtesy of C-SPAN. Doctor McCance-Katz is the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use in the Department of Health and Human Services and head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. That assistant secretary job is a new position. The SAMHSA boss used to be an administrator level position, but now it’s an assistant secretary, so a higher paygrade. Federal bureaucrats and people obsessed with hierarchical management structures will probably find that significant.

You are listening to Cultural Baggage, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I’m Doug McVay.

A conservative Republican member of the US Senate has introduced legislation for research into medical marijuana. Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah spoke on the Senate floor on September Thirteenth to introduce the Marijuana Effective Drug Studies, or MEDS, Act. The bill is co-sponsored by Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse [sic: it's co-sponsored by Senator Brian Schatz, D-HI]. Here now is Senator Hatch.

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): I am joining Senator Schatz today to introduce the Marijuana Effective Drug Studies Act, or MEDS Act, which has the potential to benefit millions of Americans who are suffering from a wide range of conditions, including cancer, severe epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, residual effects after a stroke, or chronic pain.

It is high time to address research into medical marijuana. Our country has experimented with a variety of State solutions without properly delving into the weeds on the effectiveness, safety, dosing, administration, and quality of medical marijuana.

Now, all puns aside, it will surprise no one that I am strongly against the use of recreational marijuana. I worry, however, that in our zeal to enforce the law, we too often blind ourselves to the medicinal benefits of natural substances, like cannabis. While I certainly do not support the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, the evidence shows that cannabis possesses medicinal properties that can truly change people's lives for the better, and I believe we would be remiss if we threw out the baby with the bath water.

In many cases, the compounds found in cannabis are the only hope for Americans who suffer from chronic medical conditions, such as severe epilepsy. Take the difficult case of a young man from Eagle Mountain, UT, who suffers from a number of different epileptic disorders and developmental ailments. My friend regularly takes 17 pills on a daily basis. Yet he continues to have seizures regularly. The current treatment for his condition, with no guarantee of success, would be invasive brain surgery.

This poor family is seeking help, yearning for a way for their child to live a safe and healthy life. Compounds found in marijuana could significantly mitigate the severity of my friend's seizures and even help him lead a normal life, but current regulations prevent the development of any such treatment from going forward. So this young man is left to suffer. Luckily, the MEDS Act changes that. It updates the law for the 21st century, allowing for groundbreaking research on the potentially lifesaving benefits of medical marijuana.

Compounds found in marijuana have shown promise for treating a wide range of diseases and disorders, but because of bureaucratic red tape and fear, there is a lack of sufficient evidence about the safety and efficacy of these compounds.

As a result, millions of Americans are using marijuana for medicinal purposes without there being the rigorous scientific evidence that we require all medications to have before we allow them to be prescribed in this country. There are currently no Federal quality control measures for marijuana grown for medicinal purposes, nor is there any quality control for the marijuana-based medications that patients eventually use.

Prescribers do not have guidance on appropriate doses, routes of administration, or even the safety of this medication for populations such as children or the elderly. This lack of oversight creates a dangerous environment that puts American lives at risk.

As we continue to encourage the development of new therapies for those with severe medical problems, we must be unrelenting in our insistence on scientific rigor. Using only anecdotal information poses a significant public health risk.

We lack the science to support the use of medical marijuana products like CBD oils, not because researchers are unwilling to do the work but because of bureaucratic red tape and over-regulation.

Under current law, those who want to complete research on the benefits of medical marijuana must engage in a complex application process and interact with several Federal agencies. These regulatory acrobatics can take researchers over a year, if not more, to complete, and the longer researchers have to wait, the longer patients have to suffer.

Currently, the FDA estimates that a drug takes a minimum of 7 years to move from initial studies to FDA approval. The regulatory hoops that researchers have to jump through significantly delay the production of potentially life-changing medications that Americans need.

To develop more information about marijuana's therapeutic potential, we need robust basic and clinical research. The MEDS Act would encourage this research through reduced regulatory interference, and it would expand sources of research-grade marijuana with the assurance of a quality-controlled product.

My proposal would also allow for the commercial production of drugs developed from marijuana once they have been approved by the FDA. I am pleased with the legislation that Senator Schatz and I have been able to craft surrounding CBO oil and medical research. We are committed to seeing that this bill becomes law.

Mister President, before I yield the floor, I would like to take a moment to share my perspective on the broader discussion of medical marijuana and its implications in my home State of Utah. In Utah and across the Nation, opioid abuse continues to ravage good, hard-working families who have fallen captive to the tyranny of addiction.

While some people are using these prescription drugs appropriately, others are abusing them at alarming rates. Because Utahns have watched their family members, friends, and neighbors grapple with this epidemic, many are seeking nonnarcotic alternatives that can help with pain. Medical marijuana is just one such alternative, and after careful, deliberative thought, I've concluded that it is an alternative worth pursuing.

Now let me be clear. My support for medical marijuana research does not mean that I believe that marijuana is a harmless substance. Much to the contrary, I continue to believe that marijuana can lead to broader drug abuse, and I'm deeply concerned by the cottage industries springing up in States in which marijuana has been legalized both for medical and recreational use.

So let me be clear. I am still very much opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana, but I strongly support research into the medicinal benefits of marijuana, and I remain committed to helping patients find the help they need, whether they suffer from cancer, severe seizures, or any other chronic disorder.

In crafting a new regulatory framework to harvest the medicinal benefits of marijuana while also mitigating its harmful effects, we must ensure that any marijuana-derived medications are prescribed by qualified physicians or other healthcare providers.

Also, if we make medical marijuana accessible to those who really need it, we should not increase access to recreational marijuana, nor should we do anything to promote the industry that has developed around marijuana dispensaries.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican from Utah, speaking on the Senate floor about his new bill, the Marijuana Effective Drug Studies Act. That audio came to us courtesy of the US Senate. You may have heard something about Hatch’s new bill, now you know why it’s nothing to get excited about. For real reform, we need legislation like the bill that’s been introduced by Senator Cory Booker, the Democrat from New Jersey. The Marijuana Justice Act.

What’s needed is de-scheduling, taking marijuana out of the Controlled Substances Act and treating it like St. John’s Wort or ginkgo biloba or ginseng or willow bark or any of the other plants that you can buy off the shelves at most grocery stores or vitamin shops.

Unfortunately, that’s not the position being taken by the current administration. We still have a minute left in the show, so let’s give a listen to what Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had to say recently about the Justice Department’s current position on marijuana. He spoke at an event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation on September Fourteenth.

ROD ROSENSTEIN: Yeah, this is an interesting challenge. Yeah, the attorney general's been very clear, our position of the United States, because it's reflected in law, marijuana is illegal. And, it's a controlled substance and there are no authorized uses for it, with very limited exceptions for research approved by DEA.

But there are several states that have decriminalized marijuana, so they're not enforcing it under state law, and in some states, they're actually licensing certain marijuana growers. The Department responded to this several years ago, in a series of memos that were intended to provide guidance for US Attorneys in those districts about when they should prosecute marijuana cases.

And it was largely an effort to kind of codify the traditional principles of federal prosecution, that is, as I mentioned, we have discretion, we have limited resources, how do we determine which cases we're going to pursue, and so it set forth certain conditions for evaluating which cases to pursue.

Now that's been perceived in some places almost as if it creates a safe harbor, but it doesn't, and it's pretty clear that it doesn't, that is, even if under the terms of the memo you're not likely to be prosecuted, doesn't mean that what you're doing is legal or that it's approved by the federal government, or that you're protected from prosecution in the future.

And so, we are reviewing that policy. We haven't changed it, but we are reviewing it. We're looking at the states that have legalized, or decriminalized, marijuana, trying to evaluate what the impact is, and I think there's some pretty significant evidence that marijuana turns out to be more harmful than a lot of people anticipated, and it's more difficult to regulate than I think was contemplated ideally by some of those states.

So we're going to take that all into consideration, and then make a determination whether or not to revise that policy.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, speaking a few days ago at an event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, a far-right thinktank in Washington, DC.

The drug war never ended. Harm reduction, decriminalization, legalization, and other drug policy reforms have made great advances over the past few years. We still have a very long way to go, and the people who oppose reform and are against reducing the harms from drug use are back in control at the federal level.

I started working on legalization and drug policy reform back in the bad old days of the Reagan administration. You don’t want to know the kinds of things I was called back then just for daring to question the drug war, some of them things that the FCC would not allow me to repeat on air. So yeah, we still have a long way to go, and it’s an uphill struggle, yet we have made incredible progress in the past few decades. We have turned this country around and we are going to keep going. Forward ever, backward never.

DOUG MCVAY: And well that’s it for this week. Thanks for joining us. You’ve been listening to Cultural Baggage, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. Your host and the producer of Cultural Baggage is Dean Becker. I’m Doug McVay

DEAN BECKER: To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network, archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.