11/11/18 Jim Belushi

This week on Century: Peter Sarosi from the Rights Reporter Foundation in Hungary addresses the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, and we speak with the actor, musician and comedian Jim Belushi, proprietor of Belushi's Farm in Eagle Point, Oregon.

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, November 11, 2018
Guest: 
Jim Belushi
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TRANSCRIPT

CENTURY OF LIES

NOVEMBER 11, 2018

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

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs held another set of intersessional meetings in November. But first:

In the studio with me today, it is a thrill and a pleasure and a real honor, I have -- let's see, you're an actor, you're a musician, you're a comedian, you're -- but more to the point --

JAMES BELUSHI: A writer.

DOUG MCVAY: A writer, can't forget that.

JAMES BELUSHI: Book. Broadway singer.

DOUG MCVAY: A true renaissance man.

JAMES BELUSHI: A dancer.

DOUG MCVAY: I'd have to see that.

JAMES BELUSHI: And a petty thief. So make sure your watch is on when I leave.

DOUG MCVAY: I take them off for just such an occurrence.

JAMES BELUSHI: Belushi's coming, keep your watch in your pocket.

DOUG MCVAY: He's also a farmer, of all things, and a businessman, and, if you haven't already guessed, that's Jim Belushi over there.

JAMES BELUSHI: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening.

DOUG MCVAY: So, the reason I got you here is that you are -- you're now up here in Oregon. I shouldn't say that you're now up here. Let's back up. You have a place down in Eagle Point.

JAMES BELUSHI: Yes, Eagle Point, right on the Rogue River. About five, six years ago, I purchased from the Elks Club the old Elks picnic grounds along the river. And it's a picnic grounds, I mean, they have baseball, you know, a little baseball field, stage, barbecue, right on the river. Swing set. But I think those guys got a little older, and I don't think they recruit very well.

But, they sold it to me, and I kind of refurbished it. Not kind of, I totally refurbished it, and built a beautiful house on it. And I still let the Elks use it when they want, and the Cattleman's Association comes and uses it, and people in Eagle Point, they say, Oh, you've got the old Elks picnic grounds, I partied -- everybody has partied there over the last 40 years.

But yeah, I purchased that. And I'm so happy on the river. I'm just so happy. And then a little farm came up behind me, for sale, and I bought it. Eighty acres. So I have 93 acres on the Rogue River in Eagle Point, and I have cattle on it that I lease for a nominal fee to a neighbor. And I was like, well, what am I going to do with a farm? And recreational marijuana passed, and I went, well, it's the new agriculture.

So I started to grow about three years ago, a 48 plant grow. And then I upped it last year to a light dep [light deprivation], and this year I'm in it. I am rolling, we are producing great weed, great numbers, great quality, light dep. We feed it with the Rogue River water, from the mountains. It's got an almost perfect pH for the plant, and the sun down there in the banana belt, it's just a magical, spiritual place to grow.

DOUG MCVAY: Yeah, the terroir. I can't pronounce --

JAMES BELUSHI: I can't pronounce it either, but the terroir, yeah.

DOUG MCVAY: Yeah. Brilliant.

JAMES BELUSHI: Too-are, two-er. Well, you know, it's interesting that this banana belt is in the same parallel as Burgundy and Bourdeaux. Talk about terroir, you know? From a little above me, all the way down to Napa, is that gorgeous stretch of earth, that circles our earth, that just grows beautiful wine, marijuana, pears, grapes.

DOUG MCVAY: So, now, you've -- you've gotten into the business, you have your own brand. Well, you are -- Jim Belushi, you're an entertainer so you are a brand, but your cannabis has a brand, too.

JAMES BELUSHI: Yeah, yeah. I didn't put my name on it for two years, because to me, it was -- that's Oregon, and I understand Oregon, I took right to it. And it's just a little more organic here, and a little more, just a little more real compared to living in LA, you know?

So, I didn't really put my name on it at all, when I sold it last year under Rogue's Lair Farms. Then I visited about 25 dispensaries and spent a couple hours in each, and people were like, oh, wow. Oh this is your's? So I kind of hid behind the product. I thought I should lead with the product first, instead of leading with my name. But this year, I'm so proud of the product, and I feel really surefooted, that I branded it Belushi's Private Vault.

And, releasing it this fall. It's in dispensaries now, like in Nectar, and Chalice, and Hot Box, and East, and I'm very excited, I mean, really good numbers, and good results.

DOUG MCVAY: The -- now tell me about some of your strains. You've got a -- you've got one in particular that, I remember you talking about it at the International Cannabis Business Conference that's really popular with vets.

JAMES BELUSHI: Yes.

DOUG MCVAY: Black Diamond, is that -- ?

JAMES BELUSHI: Black Diamond, yeah, the Black Diamond OG. There was -- you know, again, I wanted to do kind of a grassroots understanding, and that's why I did all these dispensary visits all over the state. And I got to meet a lot of vets, and there's three in particular, but one that I'll tell you about, on the coast, who said he was a medic in Iraq, and he'd seen things that happened to the human body that nobody should ever witness.

And he said his PTSD was so bad, and he -- he looked a little shaky with me, and his eyes kind of teared up, and he said he's got three children and a wife that he can't talk to, and he can't sleep, and he said the Black Diamond OG was the only strain that he could talk to his children again, and sleep.

And, he hugged me, and I was so moved, and I said, but, I didn't make it. And he goes, no, but you're the steward. So I was like, wow, man, and, to be honest with you, from that moment on, I changed into another place. This plant is -- this experience with cannabis, in Oregon, has pushed me through so many spiritual changes and consciousness, about myself, and about our responsibility in the world.

And there are other gentlemen, and one woman, that I met, that liked the Black Diamond OG for their PTSD. Chocolate Hashberry I won't smoke because it's -- I have a low tolerance. That will put you right on the couch. I've got this other strain that I really like, two strains: Cherry Pie, which I call "The Marriage Counselor."

I use that before I, like, talk to my wife at the end of the day, you know. She may have a glass of wine, I'll take a little hit of Cherry Pie, because usually the fight is, Are you hungry? Yeah. Well, where do you want to go? What do you want to eat, what do you have a taste for? Well, I'd like to have a cheeseburger. Nah, cheeseburger's too heavy. Well, how about some sushi, I love that little place on [unintelligible]. Oh, I had sushi with my mother last night.

And usually my reaction is, well, don't ask me what I want when you know we're going to go where you want. But after the Cherry Pie, it's like, baby, you know, we can go to the Taco Bell, as long as you're sitting across from me. And she's like, well, you're being charming. And I go, am I?

So, she doesn't even know I took the hit, and it's -- its THC is like a 19, although we just had some that tested really high. I don't know what it was about that one greenhouse, but man. But it's got about four percent terpene in it, so there's really a great entourage effect. So there's no paranoia on it, it's mellow, you can handle yourself, and like I said, I have low tolerance, so that, and the Blue Dragon. Blue Dragon keeps me, like, clean, clean thinking, and being able to speak and function in the world.

And then we've got the, like I said, Chocolate Hashberry that will knock you out. The Snowman Cookies is another really high THC that I won't try. But, we have -- and I have a new set of strains coming out in the second cycle that were created by Jeffrey Iverson, he's got an award-winning Nilla Wafer he's been growing, and he's got a mentor in San Francisco that he's been working with for 25 years, and, wow, man, he is a breeder. And this is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful stuff. Lemon Chiffon, Nilla Wafer, a pre-Bubba Kush '98. That will come out in the second cycle.

DOUG MCVAY: Excellent. I'm encouraged to know that you're doing some strains that aren't just the totally high THC. I mean, that was -- when it was illegal, that was how this all -- I did this in the '80s, when the crackdown started and so you couldn't import across from Mexico, so the domestic market began, the domestic production began, and of course you want get the maximum bang for your buck so, you know, as strong as you can, ah, this stuff will just knock you down.

And they just kept going for this higher and higher THC thing, and you still see this dabs, but, on the medical side, you get a lot more people who understand that it's a lot more than just the THC, and there's all these things.

And then you've got the specific conditions that they're going for, and -- ah, I'm just really glad to know that you're looking at a whole plant.

JAMES BELUSHI: Oh, oh, yes. Yes, yes. I mean, you know, it's like they say, you don't want to go in a liquor store and give me the highest alcohol. Right? That's 130 proof, I mean, you want a wine that's got a 14 to 16 percent alcohol content. Same thing with marijuana, you want a -- I want a strain that's got a 15 to 17 percent THC, but a two to four percent terpenes, and the terpenes, I love to see the breakdowns on that, because I know the breakdowns of my strains, and my strains, two in particular, have very high myrcene.

And the myrcene terpene, you know, thins out the cellular wall in the brain to allow the CBD and the THC to kind of penetrate better. So, the entourage effect is actually you're getting higher, but, you know, in a controlled way. You know, we need to manage. It's medicine.

You want to take, you know, a hundred milligram candy bar when you are -- five hundred milligrams when you are in -- your father's in his bed in hospice, and, you know, they've got him on opiates, and he can't talk to you. You want to get him on the candy bar, so he can be comfortable and still converse to the last day.

You know, that kind of medicine, but most people need medicine, and everybody turns to alcohol for medicine, and alcohol destroys families, kills people, women get beaten. I don't know any women that have gotten beaten from a guy -- from a pothead, unless he's mixing it with a lot of alcohol, but, I mean, we're peaceful people, but we need out medicine, and it's safe medicine.

It takes whatever trauma we've experienced in our life, whether it's somebody in your family that grew up with a disease that hurt the family, because they didn't know how to deal with it. PTSD can destroy a family. A death, divorce, all these kind of traumas. Our endocannabinoids are rushing signals between each other, and when you put these cannabinoids in you, it can slow that down. It's medicine. It's beautiful.

DOUG MCVAY: That was an interview with Jim Belushi. BelushisFarm.com is the website for Belushi's Farm. That's Jim Belushi's cannabis farm, and of course Jim Belushi is also an actor, comedian, musician, and a lot of other stuff, truly a renaissance man.

You are listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Now, to that Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting. November Seventh through Ninth they held another set of intersessional meetings. One of the people who was there to present at this CND meeting is a good friend and colleague, Peter Sarosi with the Rights Reporter Foundation and Drug Reporter.

PETER SAROSI: I would like to thank you, Madame Chair, and the Civil Society Task Force, for giving me this opportunity to take account of drug-related crisis which is happening in my region, Central-Eastern Europe. This crisis is actually not only caused by drug use itself, but by by bad drug policies, based on the faulty assumption that we can make societies drug-free by punishing people for using drugs, instead of helping them to stay healthy and alive.

In my region, most injecting drug users belong to marginalized groups of society. For example, most of them are homeless, and they belong to ethnic minorities. It is important to understand that for these people, harm reduction programs, such as needle and syringe programs, are not only one choice in the menu of services. They are not only one step to road to recovery. But, harm reduction programs actually for them are sometimes the only chance to stay alive, and to be treated with respect as human beings.

During the early years of 2000s, of the twenty-first century, in our region, a comprehensive system of care and support was being built, including harm reduction, and we had made huge progress in making access to -- letting the access to these services for people.

Unfortunately, I have to report that in recent years, most of these harm reduction services and this system has been collapsing in most countries of the region, due to the retreat of international donors such as the Global Fund, and also because of lack of funding and support from member states.

Now, the UNGASS document, which was adopted in 2016, required member states to provide access to HIV prevention services to injecting drug users in accordance with the WHO’s technical guidelines.

But since 2016, in most countries of the region, what we see is not progress, but decline in access to these services, and now coverage to harm reduction services actually qualifies as extremely low in terms of the technical guidelines. And sadly, this is a typical example of failed international investment, where the commitment of member states could not be translated into action, and inaction leads to death and suffering.

My organisation, the Rights Reporter Foundation, specializes on making movies, documentary movies. And, we are posting them online on our website, Drugreporter. And we have filmed this crisis in many countries, including Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and other countries.

In recent years, in almost all of these countries, we saw that lifesaving services have been shut down because of lack of funding. And we also filmed how as a consequence HIV and hepatitis C epidemics broke out.

And I could show you graphs of the rising rates of HIV and hepatitis in these countries, but actually the graphs don’t show the whole picture. By making movies about these people, we could see the human stories of suffering in shantytowns and ghettos of our cities.

Now, the international drug control system was created first and foremost to promote public health. But most of the injecting drug users we interviewed in our movies have never been given the same choice to make healthy decisions about their lives as most of us in this room. Most of these people were born in deep poverty, they are dealing with multiple social and psychological issues, from unemployment to childhood traumas. They are living proof of the moral failure of our societies to treat every human being with respect.

It's important to understand that harm reduction is not the opposite of abstinence. It is not the opposite of recovery. It is actually about supporting people where they are at, as fellow citizens who need help, and treating them with respect, not as problems to be solved, but part of the solution.

By producing films about these people, we came to realize that many of these people -- that abstinence for many of these people is not a real choice.

When you try to force someone who is living on the street to quit immediately drug use, it is like asking someone who has one leg to ride a bicycle, or to force someone, a traveler, to give up his hat in the desert.

Repressive policies based on the idea of fighting a war against drugs are actually pushing these people deeper into a vicious circle of poverty and drug use. They don’t need sermons, they don't need judgment. What they really need is pragmatic support from us to stay healthy and to survive, and they need it where they are at.

So unless we bring harm reduction services to people where they are at, our investment into recovery and treatment can be also wasted, because without harm reduction, the road to recovery is a road that is leading nowhere. It is like a stairway without steps.

The idea, or the dream of a drug-free society may be a very positive idea for many people, but people are denied access to live-saving services in the name of this dream, it can be a nightmare for these people.

Some people say that we have a funding crisis for harm reduction in my region. I don’t agree with this notion. I think we have a funding crisis when governments don’t have the money to deal with a problem.

But in our case, we have the money and the resources, but most governments decide or choose to spend this money on law enforcement, on punishing people to ease their pain. And we spend billions on arresting, prosecuting, and imprisoning people.

Now, harm reduction programs cost a very small fraction of that money which we spend on law enforcement, and they produce very positive effects. So I would like to urge all member states to quit dependence on repressive drug policies, and instead invest and use their resources to keep people healthy and alive.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Peter Sarosi with the Rights Reporter Foundation and Drug Reporter Project speaking to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Now, let's hear from Brun Gonzalez Aguilar, the chair of the International Network of People who Use Drugs.

BRUN GONZALEZ AGUILAR: Drug policies cannot continue to be debated and developed without meaningful participation of those most directly impacted by drug policies, that is, people who use drugs.

The outcome document ratified by member states reaffirms a commitment to the, I quote, "comprehensive, far-reaching, and people centered set of universal and transformative goals and targets, which is embodied in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, signalling an unprecedented shift towards ensuring that public health, development, and human rights concerns do not remain peripheral, but are prioritized and become central to all policy development."

We celebrate the commitment in Paragraph Four of the outcome document to work towards drug policies that respect human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the inherent dignity of all individuals, including people who use drugs and who are negatively impacted by the current criminalizing and stigmatizing paradigm.

Monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for the implementation of the commitments made to jointly address and counter the world drug problem are fundamental. We look forward to working collaboratively with all agencies, not only those with mandates respectful of human rights.

The international community should recognize that existing punitive drug policies fuel violence and unrest and threaten democracies, welfare, and well-being for all. Going forward, drug policies should instead seek to reduce violence, strengthen governance, strengthen community systems, the rule of law, and promote the well-being of society at large and those who are most marginalized and vulnerable.

If we truly are now preparing to take stock of progress made.

UN SIMULTANEOUS INTERPRETER: The interpreters kindly request the speaker to please slow down.

BRUN GONZALEZ AGUILAR: We need to stop harmful policies that rely on prohibition through criminalization. Continuing the war on drugs means a continuation of militarization along with armed confrontation and disproportionate spending on security enforcement and supply reduction strategies.

These not only fail to achieve their goals but are also at the expense of establishing and promoting peaceful and just communities and societies. Prohibitionist models and drug free objectives actively undermine the Sustainable Development Goals agenda, determined to foster peaceful, just, and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence, so that all human beings can fulfill their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.

In other words, and I quote, "There can be no sustainable development without peace, and no peace without sustainable development." Drug free objectives are not only unrealistic, they are dangerous and harmful. They are used to justify widespread human rights violations in an overly punitive approach that directly undermines health, development, peace, and security.

It is people who use drugs that are most directly and severely impacted, as drug free objectives contradict and interfere with the rights of autonomy, self-determination, and the free development of the individual.

The Sustainable Development Goals principle on partnership tells us that further steps should be based on the spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focused in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable, and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders, and all people.

Current drug policies undermine Sustainable Development Goal Number Three, to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. It's not -- the presentation's not working.

So, Goal Three, to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages; Goal Number Ten, to reduce inequality within and amongst countries, is also undermined; as is Goal Sixteen, to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Paragraph Eight of the Declaration of the 2030 Agenda reads, "We envision a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality, and non-discrimination, of respect for race, ethnicity, and cultural diversity, and of equal opportunity for meeting the full realization of human potential, and contributing to shared prosperity; a world which invests in its children, and in which every child grows up free from violence and exploitation; a world in which every woman and girl enjoys full gender equality, and all legal, social, and economic barriers to their empowerment have been removed; a just, equitable, tolerant, open, and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most vulnerable are met."

These should be used to guide decision making in drug policy development. Right now, in many different countries around the planet, our communities are still subject to actions that directly undermine progress toward achieving sustainable development goals, which include compulsory detention centers that use torture and or forced and unpaid labor in the name of treatment; death penalty for drug offenses; and open promotion of violence targeting people who use drugs; an epidemic of preventable drug overdose deaths that grows each year.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Brun Gonzalez Aguilar, Chair of the International Network of People Who Use Drugs, addressing the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria, on November Eighth.

For now, that's it. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available by podcast, the URLs to subscribe are on the network home page at DrugTruth.net.

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember: Knowledge is power.

You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back in a week with thirty more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs. 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.