03/27/19 Paul Armentano

Paul Armentano of NORML re "marijuana psychosis", Jodi James of Florida Cannabis Action Network, Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre of Patients Out Of Time & NIDA Scientist Dr. Donald Tashkin on safety of marijuana

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Guest: 
Paul Armentano
Organization: 
NORML
Download: Audio icon FDBCB032719.mp3
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CULTURAL BAGGAGE

MARCH 27, 2019

TRANSCRIPT

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.

Hi, folks, I am Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High, and this is a five star edition of Cultural Baggage. Please, listen up and share widely.

Well, friends, you may have seen the stories in papers and magazines around the country talking about how marijuana's suddenly become dangerous, it's become a means to lead to psychosis and other mental maladies, and here to help us straighten out this situation is the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Mister Paul Armentano. Hello, Paul.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Nice to speak with you, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Paul, it reaches back to the early days, when Anslinger said that marijuana leads to insanity, criminality, and death. How long will this rattle the cage, sir?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, you're correct, Dean, what's old is new again. America began its failed experiment with prohibition by claiming that marijuana made you crazy. Over the years, that narrative has changed to some degree. We've heard that marijuana makes you lazy, marijuana makes you apathetic, but now we're back to the claim once again that marijuana makes you crazy.

The bottom line is that there was no definitive evidence to support that claim now, and there remains no definitive evidence to support that claim now.

Well, here's the thing. People that express psychosis or psychotic symptoms, by and large, use all intoxicants at greater percentages than do people in the general population. So it is not surprising that many psychotics use cannabis. But that does not mean that the use of cannabis causes psychosis.

DEAN BECKER: Right. And as I, best I understand it, it is one of the favorite means of settling themselves for people with psychosis, that marijuana can calm some of the, I don't know, what's going on in their heads, right?

PAUL ARMENTANO: There's a number of reasons for this multidirectional association between cannabis and psychosis. As I mentioned, we know that psychotics tend to use all intoxicants at greater percentages than the general population.

In some of these cases, individuals suffering from psychotic symptoms may be turning to cannabis to try to mitigate some of those symptoms. In many other cases, it's very likely that those that are predisposed to psychosis are similarly predisposed to using cannabis.

The reason why I can sit here today and argue that there is very unlikely to be a direct causal relationship between the use of marijuana and psychosis in those who are not predisposed to the disease is by the simple fact that marijuana use has existed for decades, and that rates of marijuana use have ebbed and flowed over this time period, but we have not seen any parallel changes in rates of psychosis or psychiatric illness.

If marijuana was the direct cause of these conditions, we would see rates of psychosis rise and fall parallel to the use of marijuana among the public. That has never happened.

DEAN BECKER: Paul, I, what I really fear, or, I don't know, what gives me a concern, I'll put it that way, is that so many politicians are so quick to latch onto this, to use it as a tool to bludgeon the population for another year, another decade, for their use of the cannabis plant. Your response, please.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, I admit that they will. After all, claiming marijuana made you crazy worked once before, and so there is clearly an appeal among some prohibitionists and among some in the public who may be ignorant to the science, that there is some validity to this claim.

Again, this is not to dismiss the fact that there are individuals struggling with these disorders who use cannabis. We know that's the case. But the question is whether otherwise healthy individuals who use cannabis will then suffer from these disorders, and again, the evidence does not support that theory.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I would imagine that you are a very busy fellow, that you have other magazines and newspapers contacting you in this regard, and I guess what I'm wanting to delve into is the fact that too often these stories just get quoted, just get, you know, put in the papers and magazines without that counter position from good folks like you. It's allowed to stand as if it were valid with no rebuttal to it. Your thought there, Paul.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, it's unfortunate that oftentimes there's little context provided when the reporting on these stories takes place. Oftentimes the headlines are sensational, and in cases such as this particular study, there were serious caveats and limitations in the study that widely went unreported.

For instance, the authors of this study claimed that there was a specific relationship between greater likelihood of psychotic symptoms when individuals used more potent cannabis.

The authors of the study actually had no way to know whether that was the case or not because there was no cannabis in the study that was ever analytically tested.

In fact, subjects' commentary with regard to the cannabis they used was solely based on their own self-reporting of cannabis they obtained on the black market, therefore nobody, not the participants and not the researchers, had any idea as to the actual potency of any of the cannabis used in this study.

Yet, again, that basic fact largely went unreported in all of the coverage of this study.

DEAN BECKER: It reminds me of the way Great Britain, or at least the publications I see out of Great Britain, that tend to treat cannabis these days, that it has become all powerful, that skunk is on the market, and that it's going to kill your children.

And I guess that's, I don't, just another means of propaganda and hysteria. Right?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, again, it just -- it's largely due to sloppy reporting, and again, the fact that it's quite possible that many of the authors of the study when -- approached this study with their own individuals biases. And I think the study is written in a way that reflects that fact.

Again, this is in no way meant to indicate or infer that there are not potentially high risk populations who may be more likely to suffer an adverse reaction from using cannabis. Certainly there are, and I would argue that the data show that those individuals predisposed to certain psychiatric illnesses or those already suffering from psychosis are such a high risk population.

Ideally, in an environment where cannabis legally regulated and labeled, and we have evidence based education about cannabis, we can better identify those high risk subgroups and we can better target messaging to individuals in those groups so that they are aware of the potential risks and so that they are discouraged from using cannabis.

The unfortunate fact is that in the era of prohibition, we provide none of those safeguards, so that when there are potential high risk groups who may be more likely to suffer deleterious effects from cannabis, we have no way to target and message those individuals in any sort of persuasive manner.

DEAN BECKER: We need to regulate and control, isn't that the heart of it all?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Of course. If we are to even accept the prohibitionists' rhetoric at face value, that cannabis does pose potential harms to both the individual user and to society, then the rational response to that argument is to better regulate and control the substance accordingly so that we can better limit access and discourage abuse.

Prohibition of course accomplishes none of those goals.

DEAN BECKER: Well, once again, friends, we've been speaking with Mister Paul Armentano. He's the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and trust me, folks, Paul has spent thousands upon thousands of hours investigating this, getting to the heart of it, reading the scientific reports, and he can be trusted.

Paul, closing thoughts you might want to share with the listeners?

PAUL ARMENTANO: I would encourage folks who want to learn more about this study or more -- or learn more about this sort of complex relationship between cannabis and psychosis to visit the NORML website at NORML.org.

We have an indepth response to this study posted currently on the website, and we also have several white papers available on the NORML site that synthesizes decades of this literature, so that folks are going to be able to have a better understanding of what the science says and what the science does not say.

DEAN BECKER: During this time of eternal war, I find it my somber duty to report the death toll from the drug formerly known as marijuana is zero.

Well folks, we just heard from Mister Paul Armentano with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, fully disputing all the paranoia and delusions about psychosis with the use of cannabis, and, around the country, New Jersey, Georgia, are two of the states that are going legal this year.

A couple more states are kicking it around, Oklahoma just passed I think the best medical marijuana law that's ever existed, and today, we're going to get a chance to speak with a lady who's been working for cannabis reform since at least 1998, perhaps my oldest drug reformer friend, Ms. Jodi James. Hello, Jodi.

JODI JAMES: It's good to talk to you again, Dean, thank you very much for having me on your show.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jodi, the paranoia, the reefer madness, the hysteria, it's still, it's like one of these diseases we're trying to get rid of, some people won't be inoculated and so forth. It just keeps coming back around, does it not?

JODI JAMES: Well, absolutely, and a new version of reefer madness. If you have not seen Talking To Your Kids About Pot, we had the author here in Tallahassee, and it was just astounding. Cannabis psychosis, terrorism. Yeah, that whole gamut, and that was what it kicked us back to.

But you know what? The good news is that bill that you were talking about that passed in Oklahoma? Four percent of the voters went to the polls that day in Oklahoma and they filled out one bubble, and one bubble only. They voted for the best marijuana, medical marijuana bill, in the country.

If we can start to harness that four percent, when we can teach politicians across the country that there is a four percent group of us, people like me, maybe people like you, and we're going to vote for the candidate that is in favor of removing cannabis from the war on drugs, ending the war on drugs in its complexity. When we can start to teach that to politicians, that that four percent exists, we win.

You know, in Florida, for anyone who was watching, we had several elections that took weeks, and went into recounts, and were actually decided by less than one percent. And you know, our new commissioner of agriculture won on weed, water, and weapons, that was her platform. And she just kept saying weed, water, and weapons, every time.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and I think even in Texas, here, you know, we may be among the last to, you know, get on board with any type of major legalization, but, the politicians, one on one, I went to the state house, I guess it's been a month ago, talked to, who was it, I went to I think it was 79 different offices, and I found not one word of objection, not one, all --

JODI JAMES: No, one on one, they get it.

DEAN BECKER: Well, they have to, because, well, look, you've read the studies, you've seen the reports, you've talked to the doctors, you've met the patients, you understand the truth of this, it's real as real gets.

And yet, they are clinging to ancient wives' tales, hysteria, you know, just prior centuries. It's embarrassing for them, from my perspective.

JODI JAMES: People always quote that the truth will set you free, and scripture actually goes the truth you know will set you free [sic https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/John%208:32]. And we're certainly getting to the point where enough people know.

Until we have -- I live in the home of Drug Free America, we still have the same no to pot people. And you know, since the, it was the, let's see, the city attorney for the city of Seattle, who said that if your state has not done medical marijuana, do both, marijuana, medical marijuana and recreational marijuana, lest you leave anyone outside the rule of law.

I think there's something to be said for that, but maybe medical marijuana is just too complicated, and Texas should go for a full on legalization. The criminal justice numbers are there.

The prohibition of cannabis makes no sense, and once you get past the federal designation of Schedule One, which again makes no sense in light of how many states with medical marijuana, and now many studies, once you can get past that, legalization is really the right answer.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I think about it like this, that here in Texas, we have, you know, Houston, I think Dallas, perhaps San Antonio, but some of the major cities have come up with this idea, let's make it a civil penalty. Let's no longer arrest people.

Here in Houston for under four ounces of marijuana, you get a ticket, you have to go take a class, and then they, it's off your record. It never hits the books at the police station, at the DA's office, anywhere. You no -- you do not have a black mark on your record.

And, that's kind of where they're hoping to go, for under two ounces, I think, this time out, but we do have the lieutenant and governor, who are, I don't know, descendants of Harry J. Anslinger, best way to put it.

JODI JAMES: Well, I'm certainly glad that Sessions is no longer there, and certainly, we see reports coming from the United Nations, the WHO. It makes our jobs easier, and you know what? I've got to tell you, the state of Florida has allocated a lot of money over the coming years to do good quality research on cannabis, and on the effects of people who are using cannabis.

We just got the right, affirmed our right to have cannabis in whole flowers, and they're going to do an awful lot of research on what that means to patients. So as more research comes out, the closer we are to winning.

DEAN BECKER: Well, was it last week, or early this week, that the ruling, or the understanding, came down that smoked marijuana will be allowed in the state of Florida, they were wanting to limit it to edibles, I guess, heretofore. But, and that we have our good friend, Cathy Jordan, to thank for that.

JODI JAMES: I'd say Cathy Jordan and Cannabis Action Network, but sure. You know, it's been a long time coming, our constitutional amendment passed in 2016, and just like they talk about in California that even after the passage of Prop 215, there was still many, many years and court decisions that helped shape what the program looked like prior to legalization in California.

Cathy, we had been in litigation, Cathy as the lead plaintiff, with an understanding that the constitutional amendment that we passed should have allowed patients to have access to all parts of the plant. Now, we still do not have home grow, so you cannot say you have access to all parts of the plant until I can take a seed and put it in the ground and provide for myself. So that's a hurdle that we're still jumping through.

But, there was a lower court ruling that said that the court believes that access to flower and the ability to smoke cannabis was part of the constitutional amendment, and with the leadership of our Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, we have moved forward. The legislature passed a bill, finished the legislation on the Thirteenth and the governor signed it on Monday.

Now, really all that did was repeal a ban on whole flower, but that's okeh. The first patient in the state of Florida was able to purchase cannabis flower legally today, in Tallahassee, and I'm waiting on my doctor to tell me I can be the next.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I tell you what, Jodi, it's music. It's a very gentle, pleasant sound that's coming out of Florida, especially to my ears here in Texas, where, you know, no matter how hard I try, they ignore me.

JODI JAMES: Too much competition, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jodi, as we're wrapping it up here, I just want to say this, that even here in the state of Texas, we need to hear that music coming out of Florida, coming out of New Jersey and Georgia, and perhaps it will, you know, calm the beast that lies in our state legislature. Your closing thoughts, please.

JODI JAMES: Well, you know, momentum is with us, but it's not time to lay down your sword. The truth is certainly on our side, but until every last voice decides that it is time to raise their voice in objection, prohibition will continue.

We may be semi-legal here in Florida, but it's still illegal for some people in some ways, sometimes, and only if you obey, and certainly that was not what this particular plant was put on the earth for, it was put on the earth for all mankind, and women, if you want to be that person, to have, to enjoy, for our health and our well being.

So, the fight's not over, by any stretch of the imagination. We may have won this battle in Florida, certainly want to celebrate our victories, so like I told Cathy Jordan, excellent, pat yourself on the back and then get off your ass, there's more work to be done.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Permanent damage to the liver, eyes, bone marrow, heart and blood vessels, convulsions, impaired mental function, neurological damage, kidney damage, irregular heartbeats, unbearable stress, sudden sniffing death. Time's up! The answer: Lucy. Gasoline. There's a vending machine in your neighborhood.

There's going to be a major conference coming up, well, the first half of next month. Here to fill us in with some details, maybe entice us to get some tickets and to come to this event, is the director of Patients Out of Time, Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre. Hello, Mary Lynn.

MARY LYNN MATHRE, RN, MSN, CARN: Hi, Dean, how are you doing?

DEAN BECKER: I'm good. Am I right though, this is going to be one heck of a conference?

MARY LYNN MATHRE, RN, MSN, CARN: This is it. We'll say lucky thirteenth, The Thirteenth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, at the CAMLS Center in Tampa. CAMLS Center is a state of the art conference -- it's the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation.

But it's just a great venue in Tampa, with the University of South Florida doing the accreditation.

The theme for the event is Cannabis: Whole Plant Medicine for the Whole Person, and it's going to be April 11 through the 13.

DEAN BECKER: I was just doing some checking, airfares are really cheap right now, it's not too late to get involved and go to Tampa.

MARY LYNN MATHRE, RN, MSN, CARN: That's right. Tickets still available, 11th through the 13th, as I said. For any physicians, we've got a wonderful four hour, four credit course in the beginning, with cannabis clinicians Dustin Sulak and Deborah Malka, so it's really geared to new nurse practitioners, physicians who haven't worked with patients much with cannabis.

This is something to really help them feel comfortable in answering the questions for patients, and what they should do in following patients, how to make, you know, good, solid recommendations.

Then the main conference on the 12th and 13th. April 12 is the benefit dinner for Patients Out of Time, and that will be at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. And right next to that is the American Victory, a World War Two ship. On the Twelfth, that particular day, we'll have a special event for veterans, trying to get veterans together on that ship, so, there's something for everybody.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Mary Lynn, is there a website where folks can learn more?

MARY LYNN MATHRE, RN, MSN, CARN: Thanks much, yes. Patients, as in hospital patients, sick patients, not as in let's have some patience, PatientsOutOfTime.org, or MedicalCannabis.com. But the easiest way for registration is just go to PatientsOutOfTime.org.

DEAN BECKER: To give you an example of the caliber of speakers that will be at this Patients Out of Time conference, I offer this from a prior year.

All right. Next up, we hear from Doctor Donald Tashkin, the UCLA lung specialist, and government scientist, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Here's his take regarding tobacco as opposed to medical cannabis.

DONALD TASHKIN, MD: You are at risk of developing COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This is manifested by an accelerated rate of loss of lung function over time as you grow older. We failed to find a similar relationship with marijuana.

So that was one finding. We are also interested in the, investigating the possibility that marijuana smoking might lead to lung cancer. Lung cancer is largely attributed, mainly attributable to tobacco smoking, and since marijuana and tobacco share similar ingredients, including a number of carcinogens, it's a reasonable hypothesis that smoking marijuana, at least heavily over a long period of time, could, if predisposed to the development of lung cancer, maybe not to the same extent as tobacco, but to a greater extent than if you didn't smoke any marijuana or tobacco at all.

So we did a very large study, which we call a case controlled study. In that study, we identified six hundred patients who were diagnosed with lung cancer, and an additional six hundred patients or so who were diagnosed with head and neck cancer, like throat cancer, lip cancer, tongue cancer, and over a thousand control subjects who did not have cancer.

And then we administered a detailed questionnaire to all these subjects, including questions about marijuana use and tobacco use, and family history of cancer, and other putative risk factors that could predispose to cancer.

And the results were entirely negative. If anything, the risk for developing lung cancer was slightly less in relation to marijuana than no marijuana, although not statistically significantly so, despite the fact that the study was designed as well as we could possibly design, and it included a large number of subjects, over a hundred of whom smoked marijuana heavily, both in the, among the cases and the controls.

I think we can say with some confidence that there just is no evidence that -- of an association between marijuana use and lung cancer.

DEAN BECKER: I am the Reverend Dean Becker of the Drug Truth Network, standing in the river of reform, baptizing drug warriors to the unvarnished truth. DrugTruth.net.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the show, I hope you'll share it widely, and once again I want to remind you that because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag, please be careful.

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 stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancin' on the edge of an abyss.