04/10/19 Larry Foy

The UK's House of Commons discusses medical cannabis, plus we hear from the Reverend Larry W. Foy with the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity and Rafi Toruella with Intercambios Puerto Rico.

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Guest: 
Larry Foy
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TRANSCRIPT

CENTURY OF LIES

APRIL 10, 2019

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.

And this week, we're coming to you live from Portland International Airport. Eh, you know, needs must. This week, we're going to be hearing more of that audio which executive producer of the Drug Truth Network, Dean Becker, has been kind enough to share with us. He was at a Drug Policy Alliance event in St. Louis recently, got a chance to speak to a number of really cool people, and shared some of those interviews with us. So we'll have that coming up in just a few minutes.

But first, on April 8, the UK House of Commons had a discussion about medical cannabis. The UK government had promised in 2018 that medical cannabis would start becoming available to patients who were in need, in particular young people, children, who are suffering from intractable epilepsy.

The government promised that would happen, but that's not really what's been happening. And so, The Right Honorable Sir Mike Penning, MP for Hemel Hempstead, a member of the Conservative Party, which by the way is the ruling party, raised a question, asking whether the government was going to come through with -- on its promises, and when that would happen.

The government minister to whom the question was being addressed was Matt Hancock, another Member of Parliament who's Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. We're going to hear that now. The first voice you hear will be that of The Right Honorable Sir Mike Penning.

SIR MIKE PENNING, MP: Thank you indeed, Mister Speaker, and can I thank you on behalf of constituents around the country that need the help of medical prescribed cannabis.

Can I ask the Secretary of State if he would make a statement on the return of medical cannabis that was seized from Emma Appleby at Southend Airport on Sunday the Sixth of April, which is needed to treat her very ill daughter, Teagan, her extreme epilepsy, and make steps to make sure this is available by prescription around this great country.

SPEAKER JOHN BERCOW, MP: Stay. Secretary Matt Hancock.

MATT HANCOCK, MP: Thank you very much, Mister Speaker. Mister Speaker, my sympathies go out to the patients and to their families who are desperately seeking to alleviate their symptoms with medicinal cannabis.

Mister Speaker, we're working hard to get the right approach. The law was changed on the First of November last year to ensure that it is now legal for doctors on the specialist register of the GMC [General Medical Council] to prescribe cannabis based products for medicinal use in the UK.

Whether to prescribe must remain a clinical decision, to be made with the patients and their families, taking into account the best available international clinical evidence and the circumstances of each individual patient.

Indeed, there have already -- there are already prescriptions that have been written for the products that the family attempted to bring into the country, and these have been supplied to patients.

Without clinical authorization, it is of course not possible to import controlled drugs, which is why the products were seized by the border force on Saturday.

However, we have made available the opportunity for a second opinion, and the products have been held but not been destroyed as would normally be the case.

In relation to childhood epilepsy, the British Pediatric Neurology Association has issued interim clinical guidance.

NHS England and the Chief Medical Officer have made it clear that cannabis based products can be prescribed for medicinal use in appropriate cases, but it must be for doctors to make clinical decisions in the best interests of patients, to balance the risks and benefit of any proposed treatment, including cannabis based products, and to make a decision with patients and with their families on whether or not to prescribe.

To date, research has centered on two major cannaboids [sic: cannabinoids], THC and CBD. There is evidence that CBD may be beneficial in the treatment of intractable epilepsy, and over eighty children have already been supplied with CBD products in the UK on the basis of a specialist doctor's prescription.

Now, I entirely understand how important this issue is to patients and I've met and listened to families. I know just how frustrated they are, and therefore after meeting parents, I've taken the following actions:

First, I've asked NHS England rapidly to initiate a process evaluation to address barriers to clinically appropriate prescribing.

Second, to improve the evidence base and to get medicinal cannabis to patients in need, I've asked the National Institute of Health Research and the industry to take action to produce that evidence in a form that will support decisions about public funding.

NIHR has issued two calls for research proposals on medicinal cannabis, and I look forward to responses to those consultations.

This is in addition to the training package being developed by Health Education England to support every -- to provide support to clinicians to enable them to make the best decisions with their patients.

Mister Speaker, this is a very difficult area with some heart rending cases. I look forward to working with all Members of this House to ensure patients get the best possible care.

SPEAKER JOHN BERCOW, MP: Sir Mike Penning.

SIR MIKE PENNING, MP: Thank you very much indeed, Mister Speaker, and can I say to the Secretary of State, I thank you for coming and meeting the families and the loved ones of those that feel that medical cannabis, on prescription, may help their loved ones.

Some of these young children, and we're not all talking about children, but some of these young children have three hundred seizures a day. They're given drugs which actually don't seem to work at all, and there is not a cure. But these medical oils can and often do reduce the seizures.

Many colleagues in the House will know of the case of Alfie Dingley, the only young boy that's got an NHS prescription for medical use of cannabis oil. He is now a relatively naughty boy.

He's learned to ride a bike. His sister has a brother that she's never really experienced before. Now it's not a cure, but these parents are absolutely desperate. They thought when the government did the right thing, and changed the law, that things were going to get better.

Now, but I did warn them that actually this was the start of the journey, as the chair of the All Parliamentary -- Joint Chair of the All Parliamentary Group, it would be a long journey.

Anybody that saw the footage from Southend Airport at the weekend, as a parent, as a father, as anybody that has a loved one in their family that suffers, would understand what the family were trying to do. They'd been prescribed it by a consultant abroad, because we couldn't get it here.

We are relying on charity in many cases so that the money can be raised, sometimes fifteen hundred pounds a month, to actually get medical cannabis on prescription.

As the Secretary of State knows, prescriptions are being issued by the relevant experts, and the CCGs and the Trusts are refusing to honor those prescriptions. Secretary of State, that is a disgrace in this country, and we should all be ashamed of that.

I welcome the trials and I welcome the review. Sadly these people need these medicines now, and can we unlock the door? That the people at Southend Airport, border force, were very polite and very helpful. They thought they were doing their duty. We should do our duty and get that medical cannabis back to Teagan Appleby.

DOUG MCVAY: That was from the UK House of Commons on April 8. You heard the Right Honorable Sir Mike Penning, Member of Parliament, Conservative Party politician representing Hemel Hempstead. He was questioning a minister of the UK government, Matt Hancock, also an MP, he's Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

They promised in 2018 that medical cannabis would start becoming available. It hasn't. So, is that a lie? I suppose it was.

And to continue lying and continue dissembling, well, I guess that's what politicians do. What's unique is that in the UK House of Commons, other politicians are standing up and speaking out and calling the government to task.

And it's important to remember, that's a Conservative MP, and a Conservative government, so the Prime Minister's own party members are calling out their government for failing to follow through on their promises about medical cannabis.

Major stuff. I'm glad I had a chance to play that for you. You're listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host, Doug McVay.

Now, let's get to some of that content that Dean Becker brought back with him from that Drug Policy Alliance conference, which again was held recently in St. Louis.

The Drug Policy Alliance is holding its international reform conference in St. Louis this November, November 2019, so they were having an event, a number of their grant recipients, not just to get together and talk, but also presentations and panels, it was a small conference, I'm honestly a bit jealous of Dean for having, that he was able to get there.

But again, he brought back some great interviews, and he's kind enough to share those with us, so we're going to, before any more ado can possibly be furthered, let's go to some of those interviews.

First off, the Reverend Larry Wayne Foy, of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity.

THE REVEREND LARRY W. FOY: I'm the Reverend Larry W. Foy, I'm the coordinator for Justice Not Jails, a program of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity out of Oakland, California.

DEAN BECKER: Now, we're here at the Drug Policy Alliance gathering of the grantees, if you will, here in beautiful St. Louis on a wonderful day, and it's a day of hope, I think, it's a day of sharing amongst ourselves on what we can do to bring forward a better tomorrow, and I think spiritually America's lacking a bit.

What do you foresee for the future, for drug reform and the church?

THE REVEREND LARRY W. FOY: Well, I see, basically, the church becoming more involved in the work of the decriminalization of drugs. I think for the longest, we have not only been too judgmental, but we also have a punitive approach for people who use drugs.

We know much better now than we did years ago about some of the good effects that some drugs have for people as opposed to being totally harmful, as we have always believed them to be.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and I look at it like this, that the evidence is being, not discovered, but rediscovered, the truth was told, the truth was known, a hundred years ago, before this drug war began, and I guess what I'm wanting to focus on is that we have demonized the use of drugs as if it were, you know, evil, and yet the truth be told, when used properly, they are far from evil. Correct?

THE REVEREND LARRY W. FOY: Oh, I agree with you. I definitely agree with you. I agree with your assessments, that it's not just hundreds of years ago, but thousands of years ago, even in biblical history, people used hemp and they used it for various purposes, you know, not just for medicinal purposes, but it was just a part of their culture, and so it's something that we, you know, that we know today and some communities, religious communities, are talking about that.

So, it's not the proper use of drugs, you know, when they're used properly, they can be beneficial and then they could reduce harm to individuals.

DEAN BECKER: And we've allowed this fear of these drugs to complicate our lives, to endanger our lives, truthfully, by giving the sales, the production, the distribution, over to criminals worldwide who really don't give a damn about the contents or the purity of those drugs, just the profits thereof. Your thought.

THE REVEREND LARRY W. FOY: Yeah, we have to take the profit motive out of the drugs, because that's what it's become, really harmful to society, it's the profiteers, people who profit from it.

And they've used that, you know, to divide communities, they've used that, and as a byproduct of that, it's caused a lot of harms to communities, it's caused a rise in crime, criminal activity, when that -- that need not be the case.

DEAN BECKER: No, I often use the phrase that the gangs entice our children to lives of crime and or addiction, it's, it's outrageous.

THE REVEREND LARRY W. FOY: Well, it's not, you know, not just the gangs, it's also people in power. People who are in power even in our government, in some ways, who've allowed, if you will, certain drugs to flood our communities, and, when they could have been regulated.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Oh, no, the crack scare, the crack situation, started a couple of decades ago, it still continues but it has diminished in its impact, in its destruction to the communities, would you agree with that.

THE REVEREND LARRY W. FOY: Oh, yes, yes, I would agree with that.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Now, as a spiritual man, a gentleman who addresses this, you know, not from within man's law, but within god's law, within the perspective of, god gave us this earth, he gave us these plants, and to me, it just seems very incongruous that men could say no, we have control over these plants and god was wrong to put them here. Your thought there, please.

THE REVEREND LARRY W. FOY: Well, you know, everything that we need in terms of health, in terms of holiness, is implanted in nature, in god's creation, and, you know, we use prescription drugs, we use all other kinds of drugs, supposedly for health purposes.

So, to say that certain drugs are good for you, certain drugs are not, again, that comes back to private industry and comes back to political powers, and profiteering. You know?

DEAN BECKER: No, that is it, you know, the opium plant was found to be of benefit for those with certain maladies, colicky children even, you know, the needs of adults at times, and the same holds true for, you know, all of these other drugs.

The coca leaf is used in Bolivia, every person I met in Bolivia, the justice minister, the prison warden, the Christian minister, they were all -- had a wad of coca leaf in their cheek because they found it to be of benefit and not detrimental to their health.

It's just up to us to allow adults to be adults, to -- go ahead.

THE REVEREND LARRY W. FOY: I agree with you, yeah, we have to allow people to be adults. You can't take away a choice from people, people -- and people will make the right choices if they're informed, properly informed, that's one thing that we have failed to do, properly inform people of the benefits of drugs, and also to, if people are educated properly in terms of what's harmful and what's not harmful, then they will make the right choice.

DEAN BECKER: And I look at it this way, that we have created this situation where these drugs are made by untrained chemists, and who knows quite the purity of it, and then they're cut with other products to dilute them before they're sold, and I guess what I'm leading to here is that it is the policy of prohibition itself that creates nearly all the harms that we ascribe to these drugs. Your thought there.

THE REVEREND LARRY W. FOY: Yeah, because prohibition creates an underground culture. When you have an underground culture, then you will get people who are basically profiteering, and they will do anything, you know, to make money, and without regard to the human dignity or the welfare of other people, people who are buying these drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I'll tell you what -- you don't have your tag on, what's your name again?

THE REVEREND LARRY W. FOY: Larry.

DEAN BECKER: Larry, I appreciate you taking time to share with us your thoughts, and, is there a website, please, some closing thoughts, some recommendations to the listeners out there on a better way.

THE REVEREND LARRY W. FOY: Yeah. Well, you can go to our website, www.IM4HumanIntegrity.org. And see the kind of work that we're doing around not only mass incarceration and criminalization, but some of the work that we're doing with communities who've been effected by bad drug policies.

DOUG MCVAY: That was an interview by Dean Becker, executive producer of the Drug Truth Network and host of Cultural Baggage, our sister show. He was at a Drug Policy Alliance event recently, brought back some great interviews. That was his conversation with the Reverend Larry Wayne Foy of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity.

You're listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay. Now, let's hear Dean's interview with Rafael A. Torruella from Intercambios Puerto Rico.

RAFAEL TORRUELLA: My name is Rafael Torruella, the organization is Intercambios Puerto Rico, and the work that we do, well, we do, it's all harm reduction, one, but it's divided into different areas, so first is harm reduction services. We do syringe exchange, overdose prevention, all mobile.

So, we not only do the syringe exchange through peer delivered, through peer hands and peer experiences, but we also have then a case manager, we have a nurse out there, so think about it as a good, nice combo of multidisciplinary folk out there, and in a van, going out there and doing, like, really grassroots outreach with people who are injecting a lot, who have a lot of risk, and working from that base. Right? So that's our core.

Number two, we do policy. If we think it's important for people to, to understand the risk of their actions and their behaviors, we try to reduce that a little bit. If you're injecting fifteen times a day, let's make sure you're -- probably having better quality heroin and cocaine, we can talk about injection practices, we can talk about, you know, slowing down a little bit if that's effecting your vein, you know, all that raunchy stuff that needs to be done, because that's what saves lives. Right?

And HIV and hepatitis C and all that good stuff. It's also really important to change the framework in which all this exists, because we could do really good outreach and harm reduction work in the street forever, for like a hundred years, and if we don't change the policies that oppress, that make these circumstances happen, right, that push people into the corner so they have to hide in order to inject.

So we have to go find them there. We don't change those structures, then we're just barking kind of at the wrong tree. Or only in one thing, when we need to change the landscape, not just one tree. It's not about individuals, it's about what society we've created, and how it oppresses people, and we push drug users and drug sellers and people around the world of drugs into these corners, which are really oppressive. Right?

So we change that through policy. Dangerous, that's where the risk lies. It's like, anybody who knows anything about structures of HIV epidemic can tell you, it's not just about the virus, it's about the social conditions, the social drivers, the determinants of health, that make the virus so powerful. Right?

Just like hepatitis C. So it's about that. So we want to change the social conditions in which this oppression exists, because it's about the structures. Right? And we do policy around that, we want to decriminalize drug -- not drugs, drug users. Right? We want to regulate markets. We want to make sure that police don't have so much money vis a vis how much money there is for health. Right?

And then thirdly, we do technical assistance around, well, where we are, in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and Latin America, and we work a little bit internationally, and there's a few things just floating around, but also work that we try to do and we're really proud to be part of the social movement, both at the ground, grassroots level, and many times at a global level, which gives us some also bearings, that we're not alone. This is a global movement.

DEAN BECKER: I appreciate that, Rafael. You're wearing the shirt the Drug Policy Alliance gave us today. It says Legalize Drug Users, and that is at the heart of it.

The situation, and I want to just share briefly with you, I went to Switzerland last year, I met with the folks that founded their safe injection program, they told me in nineteen years they've had 23 million injections and zero overdose deaths, that the people involved in the program come in, get their injections, then they go to work, they go to school, they tend to their children, they're not out shoplifting, whoring, they're not --

RAFAEL TORRUELLA: No.

DEAN BECKER: They're functional, they're not looking for drugs, they're otherwise just normal human beings.

RAFAEL TORRUELLA: Functional human beings, because they're not marginalized, yes.

DEAN BECKER: And, it just begs the question, how the hell did we get to this point with drug prohibition being the driving factor, the danger creating implement of destruction that it is.

RAFAEL TORRUELLA: Well, I mean, I think in a way, you've said it, but it's about not changing, in Spanish XXXX, you didn't shift your chip, you haven't made that brain change from being a moralist country, saying we need to penalize people for their drug use, and really understand that the social drivers of it is the mind of criminalizing, it's the mind of prohibition. It's the mind of saying there are bad people.

We need to leave that moral evaluation, that negative moral evaluation of drug users and drug sellers, and walk into a pragmatic -- we have ideals, that doesn't mean that we don't have ideals, but the ideals, and to another moral level of saying, we love people, we love humans, regardless of their drug use, or sometimes because of their drug use. We don't need to discriminate and think that drug users are bad because of their drug use.

That's the main error. Right? That's basic, and the ideology of drug use is bad, period, you know, and no drug use is good. Well, life is not that simple. Life is not black and white. I wish life would be so simple as to live it out of a book, and then you think everybody needs to live your life based on that book, be that a bible or Marxism, right, you know?

And I don't have anything against Marxism, I think, and I don't have anything about religion, I think they have some good stuff. Right? But you can't just live yourself off that, life is more complex, because we're all here. Right? Because life is about the gray, it's not about the black and white, it's about gray.

And drug use has been with us from the beginning of time, and it will be with us until the end of time, if we end as human beings, to kill each other, like, we've been doing a pretty good job at it, by the way, because of this criminalization, because of hating other people.

And harm reduction just comes in and saying, like, wait. We're all humans, and actually if you want to love somebody that, for example, uses drugs, even uses drugs in a non healthy way, don't be criminalizing that person. Don't be hating that person. Don't try to change that person yelling at it, because that's just hate. Individual, collective, whatever, you need to be more in the love side, and I don't mean love in the oh, let's give you a hug. Yeah, it might have to be a hug, and understanding, but support. Not punishing.

DEAN BECKER: Rafi, we're playing hookie from a panel we're supposed to be in here, I want to give you one more question. Basically, Puerto Rico. You guys were hit hard. You guys were hit very hard. Has that complicated your work, and if so, how do you work around it? What do you hope to create in the near future?

RAFAEL TORRUELLA: It's complicated our life quite a bit, just having a complex relationship with the United States. We're a colony of the United States, and that never ends well. You know? That never ends well, especially when you're, as a country, there's a lot of corruption, because of how the government handles a lot of this stuff.

Because of how the United States handles the stuff in Puerto Rico there's a lot of corruption. Right? And FEMA doesn't act the right way, and they say we created our own problems, right, as if the United States had no relevance on how messed up Puerto Rico is right now. It's a messed up relationship. Right?

And that doesn't end up well for the colonial outpost. Right? So, we are trying to retool ourselves, trying to make harm reduction relevant in the health structures in Puerto Rico. Right? We want to make sure that drug users are taken care of, so our society doesn't end up with even more HIV, with more hepatitis C.

Because a lot of people think that, oh, if you treat drug users well, then you're just pampering them, and that's BS, right, that's just -- you need to do that, not, even if you hate drug users, which you shouldn't, you need to treat them well. Why? Because if you treat them bad, you just elevate HIV risk, hepatitis C risk, and just hate all over the society that you live in.

So you're actually, at the end, hating yourself. Right? So, and doing bad things for society. Right? So, we are trying, for Puerto Rico, after all this, really, you know, high impact, but it's not just of a hurricane, it's about the social mess that the US-Puerto Rico relationship has created.

And we're trying to do the best from the ground up organizing, making sure people understand that we need better policies, and keeping our folks in health.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. We've got to realize the drug war's much more destructive than any hurricane. Rafi, a website you might want to share?

RAFAEL TORRUELLA: Sure. We have a couple. It's in Spanish, so it's Descriminalisation.org, or decriminalization dot org but in Spanish, Descriminalisation.org, and our main website where you can find all of, like, who we are, what we do, and all that good stuff, is IntercambiosPR, as in Intercambios Puerto Rico, so it's IntercambiosPR.org.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Dean Becker's interview with Rafi Torruella from Intercambios Puerto Rico. They met up at a Drug Policy Alliance conference in St. Louis recently. Again, the Drug Policy Alliance has its international reform conference coming up in November in St. Louis. You can find out more about that by going to the DPA website, DrugPolicy.org, or go to the conference website at ReformConference.org.

And well that's it for this week. 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, including this show, Century of Lies, as well as the flagship show of the Drug Truth Network, Cultural Baggage, and of course our daily 420 Drug War News segments, are all 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.

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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.