05/31/18 Jason Reed

Jason Reed, Executive Director of Law Enforcement Action Partnership - UK re British Medical Journal recent embrace of ending the drug war, preventable diseases and overdose deaths & much more.

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Thursday, May 31, 2018
Guest: 
Jason Reed
Organization: 
LEAP UK
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CULTURAL BAGGAGE

MAY 31, 2018

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: I am the Reverend Dean Becker, keeper of the moral high ground in the drug war, for the world, and this is Cultural Baggage.

Hi folks, this is the Reverend Dean Becker. I'm in studio, and man, do we have a show for you today.

We examine what goes on all around the US on a regular basis, but today, we're privileged to hear a bit about what's going on in Great Britain, the progress of some of our friends and allies over there. We're glad to be speaking with the executive director of Law Enforcement Action Partnership UK, Mister Jason Reed. Hello, Jason, how are you today?

JASON REED: Hi there, Dean, thanks for letting me on your show.

DEAN BECKER: Jason, the fact of the matter is, you know, we have in the past, oh, well really a hundred years, grown to believe, and by that I mean, too many politicians have grown to believe in the drug war, in the quote benefits of this drug war, but the truth be told, there, the fact there are no benefits is being exposed on a daily basis. Am I right?

JASON REED: It's strange. Depends how you look at it. There is some benefits, because it ramps up the rhetoric within these presses that pander to political persuasions, so, if you're of a certain inclination, and you have a pre-bias towards this issue, then the circular nature that you get between what's being published, what comes out in the journals, and what comes out in the political stakes, there's this strange circular logic to it.

So politicians can think they're doing the right thing, because they believe in the moral aspect of it, and I use that in quotation marks, but of course once we know, you start stripping down the policy and you get down to the raw evidence of this matter, there's not anything that can support current policies of prohibition. They just don't work.

But unfortunately, once you get into this circular position where certain aspects of the press pander towards what they think is a popular position, that then reinforces, emboldens our politicians thinking that they're in the right thing on this crusade, and we need to get away from that. This is where we need to neutralize it, and get to a position of pure science and evidence.

DEAN BECKER: And, that is the key, the telling point, is that, you know, the politicians, the, those in positions of authority, that can continue to believe in this drug war, are fondly remembering the tales of their youth, the quote reefer madness that was presented for decades on end, that was designed to frighten children and parents into believing this.

And it's proving to be a fallacy. That it empowers terrorists, it enriches cartels, it gives reasons for these violent gangs to prowl our neighborhoods. Am I right?

JASON REED: I think it's the case of a generational change. I think you're right, it's the -- I'm a child of the '80s, I was brought up in the Just Say No generation, so they just had a logic to it, that all drugs are bad, therefore any kind of bolstering and underpinning that system, for your personal use, was evil, and again, I'm paraphrasing, obviously.

But, once you actually do assess this from a rational position, and you get away from that -- that ingrained perspective that may have come along generationally, you do have to analyze this, and thankfully, we've now got a position where we've got so many different people in the medical field, science and evidence, and just general people that are studying this from an academic point of view, which is so useful because it just completely strips away the wrestling match that comes with the emotional turmoil that inherently comes with the subject.

And once we get into that position, we're finding that that's the information we need, and that's the information that we can start getting across to the general public. Because unfortunately the general public still don't quite necessarily understand what's going on.

And that's where people like you and I come in, to make sure that the science and evidence that is out there supporting our case for reform is actually managing to get to the eyes and ears of people that aren't particularly interested in the subject, but it absolutely one hundred percent effects, through, as you said, terrorism, through street crime, through just the general erosion of social links, as well, because of what these policies can do, inherently racist policies that come with drug policy.

You know, these are all erosions that happen within a social level, so once we actually get to the point where laymen can understand this, that's when we're going to start seeing some progression.

DEAN BECKER: You know, here in the US, we have constant situations where politicians, people in positions of authority, continue to say, especially in regards to medical cannabis, that, oh, there haven't been enough studies done, we dare not go down this path, it's much too early. But the truth be told there are thousands of studies having been done to cannabis and these other drugs which show that it's not as deadly and as dangerous as was portended.

And you guys were actually supported, or recognized, by the British Medical Journal, who is now calling for a reexamination, an end to this eternal drug war. Your thoughts, to their endorsement, please.

JASON REED: It was pretty incredibly to get that degree of recognition, and, the British Medical Journal have always been pretty good on being progressive, opening up the policy and working out, you know, is there alternatives in this, and assessing the evidence, like they should do, you know, it's a peer reviewed journal that is there to have a rigorous conversation on various different things.

And of course drug policy is very prominently on the agenda now. You can't escape it. The media's getting its teeth into it, and also we've got support from the Royal Society for Protection of Health, the Royal College of Physicians, the medical fraternity are absolutely stepping up to the plate now.

So when we got an email from the British Medical Journal saying, would you like to write a piece for us, to detail what you're doing in LEAP UK, and LEAP globally. Of course we jumped at it, it was like, absolutely. This is exactly the publication that we want to be published in. So, myself and Paul Whitehouse, former chief constable here in the UK, we co-wrote a piece that detailed everything that we can highlight within the fails of this drug war, so race disparity, the -- just, the sheer money that goes into the global trade of, you know, three hundred and twenty billion per year globally.

But also, the smallness of the statistics, as well, which resonate well with the voter demographics. So, in the UK alone, each taxpayer pays four hundred pounds a year to keep drug policy afloat. So if this -- if this is a failed policy, which of course we know it is, people are paying four hundred pounds out of their own pockets every year to keep this policy going, when we know it doesn't work.

So then, on the back of that, British Medical Journal a week later came out and wrote an editorial, and it's the furthest they've gone on this subject, and they said that we need to legalize, regulate, and control all drugs, which is the first time they've used that language. They've always been progressive, but they've never signed up to that degree.

But, the key, to us, was the sign-off. Within that editorial, they actually made it very, very clear that they want health professionals now to step up and take this issue on. They're calling for more health professionals, they're saying that more health professionals need to actually take a lead in this, to actually get some health-led policies as opposed to criminal justice system-led policy.

So for us, that was just a clear endorsement of where this conversation is going, and where it has come from, it's just -- that's movement.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jason, I've got to say, you know, hearty handshake, whatever, for what you've done, but, the truth be told, there is nobody in the United States that's willing to come on my show and defend this policy. They run like rabbits.

You know, I just got back from Portugal, and Switzerland, last month. I got a chance to speak to Doctor Goulão there in Portugal about the very successful harm reduction policy they've had in place for I think 19 years. I got to speak to the gentleman in Switzerland who started their heroin injection program. I got to speak to the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction.

And I found that they were perfectly willing, these people in positions of authority, to talk about the drug war, to talk about the problems, and what's your thought there, why are so many politicians afraid to have that debate, to have that discussion?

JASON REED: It is interesting, isn't it? As you said, a lot of times, trying to find the opposing voices is a big key to what we're trying to do now, and they just don't necessarily want to come up and have their say. I think a lot of it is because our position is quite strong, in reform now, there's no getting away from it. The, as we just said, the medical profession has stepped up, the criminal justice system, broad spectrum, has stepped up for LEAP.

But also, we've just got other factions as well, because in this country we've got a brilliant organization called Anyone's Child, which is a movement and an organization of bereaved family members that now want to fully legalize, reform, and control drugs, to prevent the same tragedy in other families that they've gone through.

So once you're faced with these multi, different strings of dialogue that we're putting out there, it does make it quite difficult to argue against. So, to find those voices is near on impossible. So the politicians, a lot of times, are on the wrong side of history. It's just, it's a simple phrase to use, and we use it a lot, but it's pretty much true that they think that they're doing the right thing, when of course we know they're not.

But in this country, we -- there was quite an interesting poll a few years ago where they polled anonymously in the House of Commons, in our Parliament, and they found that 75 percent of MPs when polled anonymously doesn't think that the current drug laws work. So the majority don't think they work, and yet you try and get that on record, it goes a very different way.

And a lot of that is because of internal politics. If a party doesn't particularly support an issue, then it means that individual MPs have to go against their party, which leads to all sorts of different problems internally. Also, there's, as I said at the start of our chat, there's also the position of media and press, and how that interacts with policies and politicians. That always plays a massive effect.

So if politicians can have their say, and be quite free, and have an outside party point of view, chances are you might get some degree of agreement out of them. But if you go through conventional channels, where they have to step up, do press releases, have very quick quotes of him, media stakes, it can quite often put them off because they're not always going to get represented.

So what we've found is, if you neutralize that, and you do get a very relaxed conversation with certain people, it's about creating the right platforms and right conditions for people to have the right level of, say, which I know sounds really convoluted, but basically it means that if you can have a relaxed, open conversation, where you completely have an amnesty, the chances are you do get some quite favorable dialogue.

DEAN BECKER: You know, it's a very incremental thing. It was, what, December 2014, I interviewed our then police chief, Charles McClelland, through a gentle process, you know, if A is true, then B is certainly true, and if B is true, then C is true, and eventually through this gentle, slow progression, about halfway through our conversation he said, you know, Dean, you're absolutely right, the drug war is a miserable failure.

And, from that moment, the local TV and the newspapers carried that interview, and helped to change the equation here in Houston, because, it is totally indefensible, what we're up to, isn't it?

JASON REED: Exactly, and that's -- you've made exactly the right point there, if, just having that conversation, and, as we say in this country, I don't know if this translates, but showing your maths. So if you're doing this ridiculously hard maths equation, then make sure you show how you got to that source, and how you've actually managed to do your working out.

That is key, so if you can show your maths within this discussion, which we are doing, because it's -- the evidence is completely on our side. People tend to have a bit of a change of heart, if they've got this ingrained position.

What we've also got to remember, this is a social program as well. Most of our generation have got a certain way of thinking with drugs. We have been brought up to think of them as the boogeyman. So, if we're all of a sudden then being perceived to release that boogeyman back into society, it straight away puts people's backs up. Well, of course, why wouldn't it?

So, when we're having these dialogues of, you know, well, this doesn't work, this doesn't work, how about this as an alternative? And also putting people at the heart of this debate, as well. This is key.

As much as we do need science and evidence, and the plural of anecdote isn't data, as we say, we also absolutely do need to represent the human faces, and whether that's the literal drug war in the Philippines, in Mexico, or the overdose deaths that are happening because of opioids in your country and in mine, and also, as we said, cannabis and medicinal cannabis and what that represents with human faces as well.

These are all things that do get traction, and absolutely do need representing. And we are, I think, our publicity streams, and I may use that kind of skeptically, that phrase, but our publicity streams are working. We're now better communicators within our general field of reform, and this is getting traction, and this is what's working.

DEAN BECKER: This is Dean Becker, your host. I'm breaking in just for a moment to remind you, you're listening to Cultural Baggage on Pacifica Radio and the Drug Truth Network. We're interviewing Mister Jason Reed, the executive director of Law Enforcement Action Partnership in the UK. The following, from the TV show Good Morning, Britain.

CHARLOTTE HAWKINS: The way forward to deal with this is to legalize drugs so that people would know what they are taking, is that the position that you feel would be a positive step forward, to help protect people?

RAY LAKEMAN: Well, I'm absolutely convinced that, when, you know, Lee Cohen is, the police, you know, medical experts and things like that, they all talk about what they refer to as a recreational dose.

RICHARD MADELEY: Yes.

RAY LAKEMAN: If, you know, if -- if this drug was regulated, and you had a recreational dose, you'd know exactly what they're taking, whether you like it or not, it would be safer. I've got no doubt my boys would be here, and I strongly suspect that these young people who died at the weekend would be here as well.

We don't have to like it just to see that it's -- it would have prevented these deaths.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! [coughing] Rather harsh. Yes indeed. You've got to sneak up on this stuff. Time's up! The answer: K2. Spice. Or JWH018, the non-urine testable synthetic version of marijuana. Surely after its prohibition, no one will want to sell it at fifty dollars per gram.

Now, back to our interview with Jason Reed of LEAP UK.

And I think the, I don't know, what must be realized, recognized, is that, heretofore, in the US in particular, we had ten, twenty, thirty years of ratcheting up the drug war, from, you know, Nixon's time up through about the mid-'80s [sic: into the mid-'90s], and, the politicians just leaped into that, who joined in that attitude, who voted for mandatory minimums and search and seizure, and, you know, just extending prison terms, et cetera et cetera, as if it was god's will. That isn't happening anymore.

There are fewer, hell, I imagine there's fewer people every day, now recognizing the need for this drug war, that stand forth and call for more draconian measures. It's, it's just not happening any -- these days, is it.

JASON REED: I think we've got two strands, as well. We've got the human costs and the literal fiscal costs. And both of them aren't weighing up now, so I think people are having to be more critical thinking, especially on the human costs, because, in this country alone, we've never had a higher rate of drug deaths. This is it. We're topping the charts.

And, globally, we're seeing that as a trend as well, so when you're seeing that it's not the other person over there in the street that's got this problem, this is happening on every single one of our doorsteps. Chances are we all know someone that's had an addiction or suffered some sort of fallout through drug policy. These are stories that are now connecting up the dots, to make people realize that this isn't a concept. This is actually literal, this is happening to me, in my own world.

And that's the key to it as well, is to make sure that people realize that you're not exempt. There is no -- there is no barrier around you to safeguard, if we're having more and more drug deaths, then chances are through six degrees of separation or fewer, you are going to be effected.

And we're seeing a massive rise in drug deaths here, especially at festivals as well, some music festivals and nightclubs. And there's a great initiative over here called The Loop, which is a drug testing facility. So people that go to clubs and festivals, that may want to use drugs throughout that event, they take this, their stash, to different provisions around the site where they'll then get drug tested, find out what's in those drugs, so if you've got MDMA, have you got pure MDMA or have you got something else that's mixed with it?

And they're finding that things like rat poison are obviously present. Concrete. All of these different impurities are there. And just this weekend, there was drug deaths at festivals, and, it's tragic, obviously, absolutely horrendous that it happens to any family.

And I'm hesitant to kind of slide into this point of view, but, if there is a benefit from that, which of course there very much isn't, but the conversation has now been opened up in this country because of those drug deaths. All over the media this week has been about drug testing facilities and how they can save lives.

So if we can actually save lives through the tragedies that have happened, and befallen us before, then maybe there is some tiny silver lining to that.

DEAN BECKER: I just this morning caught a, I think it was BBC [sic: ITV], but I'm not sure, it was Good Morning Britain, and this gentleman was talking about how his children died because of prohibition, because they didn't know what they were taking, they had no idea of the contents of the drug they imbibed.

And that is representative, here in the US, last year we had over 60,000 deaths because people were taking drugs, again, where they did not know what was in the bag or the pill, that, the US, we call this the control, of the controlled substances, that's the biggest fallacy that's ever been created, and I guess what I'm leading to here Jason is that, you know, we don't know if that's, if it's heroin, or if it's horse tranquilizers, fentanyl, or if it's elephant tranquilizer carfentany. It's an absurd situation, isn't it?

JASON REED: We have -- we've reached that free for all point now. We use -- wild west gets used a lot, and I'm reticent to use it, but, it's a fairly good motif to emblemize just how much of a complete catastrophe it's now become, where everything is just up in the air and we don't know what we're getting.

In this country alone, we've had a thing called legal highs, which I'm sure you know about as well, which is, cannabis substitutes like Spice, which are just essentially just synthetic cannabinoids sprayed onto a substance. This is now wreaking havoc across our homeless population, and we're seeing different social demographics have fallout because of this.

You know, this is historically true as well, you often associate certain drugs with certain demographics. And of course, being a student of Carl Hart, you realize that we don't always pander to that, you know, it doesn't always make sense, you know, we don't have the meth addict, as we conceive them, we don't -- we certainly don't have the heroin addict, how we perceive them.

This happens to everybody, across the social spectrum. But what we are seeing is that there are certain vulnerable groups, as I said, the homeless population in this country, that are now suffering because they just do not know what they're getting with their substances.

And this is where heroin assisted therapy and safe consumption rooms are crucial. And we're getting that conversation here, we're, in Scotland, we're managing to potentially get some movement with those safe facilities, and in Wales we might as well. But in England, and London central, politics, there's still a lot of movement. We've still got that position, that very conservative politicians don't want to move on this because of what they think the moral position is.

And of course, that's where we need to twist the discussion around, to make people realize that actually the moral situation, and the immoral situation, is to do nothing, which is what current drug policy does.

DEAN BECKER: When I was in Portugal, talking to their drug czar, Doctor Goulão, I brought up the synthetic, and I hesitate to use the word cannabis, but that crap they put the poison on. And he says, we don't have that here, because there is no need for it there, there is no penalty for possession of regular marijuana, it is the fear of arrest and being thrown in a cage that sends many probationers and parolees here in the US to smoke that synthetic crap, rather than, you know, risk using actual marijuana. It's just totally turned on its head, if you ask me.

JASON REED: And that's the iron law of prohibition. The iron law of prohibition means that things are always going to get worse, and that's what we certainly found with synthetics, is that just when you think we've got on top of everything, which of course we haven't, this new string of the drug war comes along to go, actually, look, we've just changed the whole game again.

And this is what LEAP are doing at doing, across the world, is to make people realize that the trade is always going to be one step ahead of those that are chasing it. There's no way you can ever get on top of it, because once you do clamp down on one thing, the balloon effect says it's going to bulge out into somewhere else.

And people like Neil Woods, our chairman here, who's a former undercover officer, he's in this up close and personal, and what we're finding in LEAP UK is that, the undercover officers primarily, and we've got about five or six, they're the ones that have suffered the most within this, both what they've seen with their own eyes, but also what the job has done to them, through PTSD, and just general fallout of being faced with the most vulnerable people in our communities, and yet still making their lives worse.

These are real moral hangings, and dilemmas, that they've had to go through to have this Damascus moment of, am I doing the right thing in this? And that's why LEAP's message is just so internationally powerful, I feel.

DEAN BECKER: No, it, it certainly is. It's resonating anywhere it's recognized or allowed to be brought forward. Jason, we're running out of time here, but I want to bring up the fact that GW Pharmaceuticals is perhaps the world's largest producer of marijuana. They're based in Great Britain, and they are, if not already, will soon become the world's largest exporter of cannabis to the world. Your response there, please.

JASON REED: How strange is that, the country that has probably got some of the harshest laws on cannabis still is now officially recognized by the UN as the largest grower and exporter of legal cannabis.

And it's just perverse, especially when we're not even allowing medicinal use. We've got no access to medicinal cannabis in this country. And there's a couple of high profile cases at the moment, with children who've got epilepsy, and that kind of condition, that are now doing everything they can to appeal for a Home Office license just to get some, an import and export license, so that they can get the medication that they feel best suits their child, because they've seen it with their own eyes. The seizures stop with medicinal cannabis oils, and the routes they've taken.

But, we're still not allowing it. And to the point where it was even, one of the cases, denied very, very recently, within the last couple of days. So we've got this position of being the biggest exporters and growers, and yet no access whatsoever, and on top of that, criminalizing. We still are criminalizing people that have got serious conditions that use cannabis.

So we are seeing quite a big push now of our politicians. The, we've got different boards within Westminster. There's one called the All-Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform, they're starting to do a lot more with medicinal cannabis as well, saying, right, this has gone far enough, we need to address this.

And this goes back to the point I was making as well, is, you need a dovetailing of politicians, the general public, and publicity. You need that triangle to form, to get out there the messages that we're trying to get across, and that's where we are now getting quite a lot of traction.

There's a lot more movement in this country now, of getting patient narratives out there, there's a great organization called United Patients Alliance, which do put out those patient narratives, just superbly.

And we are, we're getting movement now. But, it shouldn't have taken this long. It really shouldn't have.

DEAN BECKER: No. And again, we're closing it out here, again we've been speaking with Mister Jason Reed, the executive director of Law Enforcement Action Partnership in the UK. You were talking about promotions and publicity. You guys won a national award over many of the networks for the work you have done, am I right?

JASON REED: Yeah, that was completely bizarre, we wasn't expecting that degree of success. So, what it was, we've got a podcast called Stop & Search, which you can find on iTunes and Cast. And we get some big people on there, we get politicians, we get nationally recognized celebrities in this country, we've had Ruth Dreyfuss, the former president of Switzerland, now the chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

And we just have conversations on drug policy, addiction, all these different overlapping factors, and last week, we were up for two awards, the best current affairs and smartest podcast. And we got the silver award in both categories, and we beat people like BBC Blue Planet, which is like their giant flagship program about ocean life. We beat national radio shows, we beat headline politicians, so to get that degree of endorsement was just -- it just shows how far we've come.

We certainly used it as a, well, this just goes to show how big the issue has now got, where we're, a humble podcast with absolutely no budget whatsoever, is now essentially beating these massive great media players. And that's testament to how far we've come. You have a drug policy conversation that's growing, it's only going to get bigger from this point on. We're doing something right, I think.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jason, one last thing, please share your website, point folks to where they can learn more about the work you do.

JASON REED: On our website, go to UKLEAP.org. Facebook is UKLEAP.org. Instagram is @UKLEAP, and our twitter is @UKLEAP. And as I said, our podcast is Stop & Search. If you just google stop and search podcast, you should be able to find us.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, I want to thank Jason Reed of LEAP UK for that great interview. That's all we can crowd in this week, join us next week when our guest will be Jodi James of the Florida Cannabis Action Network, and again,I remind you, because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag, please be careful.

Drug Truth Network transcripts are stored at the James A. Baker III Institute, more than seven thousand radio programs are at DrugTruth.net, and we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.