05/08/19 Lindsay LaSalle

This week on Century of Lies, we talk to Lindsay LaSalle with the Drug Policy Alliance about harm reduction, alternatives to coercion, and the DPA's upcoming conference in San Francisco May 16 and 17; and with Teressa Raiford, a community organizer, social justice activist, and mayoral candidate in Portland, Oregon.

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Wednesday, May 8, 2019
Guest: 
Lindsay LaSalle
Organization: 
Drug Policy Alliance
Download: Audio icon COL050819.mp3
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TRANSCRIPT

CENTURY OF LIES

MAY 8, 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.

The 2019 Global Marijuana March took place May Fourth in cities and towns around the world. Thousands upon thousands of people taking to the streets to protest for social justice, civil rights, and the legalization of marijuana.

I attended the GMM event in Portland, Oregon. We had a great crowd there in Pioneer Square. I got some great audio, we’ll get to some of that later in the show. But first:

LINDSAY LASALLE: I am Lindsay LaSalle, and I'm the Director of Public Health Law and Policy for the Drug Policy Alliance, which is a national nonprofit organization that's headquartered in New York but has offices throughout the country, that is focused on repairing the harms of the war on drugs, and ensuring that we are moving away from the criminalization of people who use drugs and instead toward a public health approach that prioritizes their health and wellbeing.

DOUG MCVAY: And, you have an event coming up May 16 and 17, which sounds really exciting. It's down in San Francisco, and, could you tell the folks about this?

LINDSAY LASALLE: Sure. We're hosting a conference that is free for attendees at UC Hastings College of Law on May 16 and May 17, that is focused on coerced treatment.

And in particular, as we start hearing rhetoric around, for instance, treatment instead of incarceration, we need to really be having a critical eye on what we mean by treatment. And in fact, most often, the treatment that people are talking about very closely mirrors incarceration itself.

It doesn't prioritize consent, it is premised on the disease model of addiction, which punishes people, for instance, or relapse, it allows family members and friends to civilly commit their loved ones against their will, and so this conference is an effort, indeed, to look at forced treatment or coerced care in the context of drug policy and in the context of drug addiction.

But also, you know, positioning it in an intersectional movement around the course care of people with mental health issues, with disabilities, and really looking at how all of these movements intersect, and how if we address one, hopefully we can address others, also.

DOUG MCVAY: You know, it's been interesting watching the evolution of drug policy reform. I mean, twenty years ago, drug policy reformers were arguing for treatment alternatives to incarceration and for drug courts, we were involved in, you know, in Prop 36.

At the time, we didn't really view that as, well, I don't know, but, you are -- we are talking about moving beyond those sorts of coerced -- a lot of people expressed concern at the time, I shouldn't be coy about it, I'm one of them, but a lot of others did as well, the idea of net-widening, of cherry-picking, of resource diversion.

LINDSAY LASALLE: Exactly, right.

DOUG MCVAY: And I'm -- personally, I'm really glad to see Drug Policy Alliance moving in this direction, and taking this kind of -- taking this kind of a stand. So, talk more about the -- even reading from your press release, the, you know, reducing the role of criminalization in drug policy, that harmful and coercive drug addiction treatment interventions, like forced detox, civil commitment, and drug and other treatment courts, are proliferating. Could you -- just talk for a moment about the problems of continuing the criminalization while the, at least, with this diversion to treatment.

LINDSAY LASALLE: Sure. Yeah, absolutely. So, I think, I mean, you're right with respect to Prop 36 in California. That was a Drug Policy Alliance drafted and supported initiative, and I think at the time, certainly, a shift away from incarceration was really powerful in narrative.

But what we're seeing more recently is that as we're shifting the narrative, we're not shifting in practice, and so the treatment ends up looking like an extended version of criminalization.

And so if you take drug courts, for instance, certainly there are some drug courts that indeed provide some benefits. But they are not uniformly regulated, their standards differ dramatically from drug court to drug court, even within very similar jurisdictions.

And, in fact, you have a number of truly, you know, medical ethics violations, human rights, violations, when the patient has a relationship with a doctor that is not confidential, when the doctor is not accountable to the patient but instead accountable to the courts, accountable to a judge, has to report everything that the patient tells them, has to report relapse.

And the types of harms that you talked about earlier, with respect to net-widening and cherry-picking, et cetera, that's exactly what we've seen play out in practice, where the people who actually need treatment aren't able to get it because of very low, you know, low -- actually, a very high barrier, right, to get into these types of drug courts, where you have to have a very low level crime, may or may not actually have a substance use disorder, and if you do have a substance use disorder, then the principles by which these drug courts are operating are not based in evidence.

So many drug courts deny the gold standard of care, which is medication assisted treatment with methadone or buprenorphine, just don't allow their participants on it at all. This is the most rigorously evaluated treatment for substance use disorder, as I mentioned before, punishing people for relapse.

So it doesn't end up being treatment instead of incarceration. It's rather this kind of hybrid that often ends up with people spending more time incarcerated than they would have if they had just taken the initial appeal, because every time they relapse they are sanctioned with time in jail.

And so I think it's both that it extends the criminalization that we're already seeing, but also it really has co-opted our voluntary treatment system, such that now, people cannot get treatment on demand.

They cannot get treatment if they want it, if they're ready for it, if they need it, because all of their resources have been poured into the treatment within the criminal justice system, so within drug courts, or within civil commitments, which is slightly differently, not based on any underlying criminal conduct, but something that we have seen proliferate, really dramatically, in the last few years.

So as just one example, Massachusetts has a law that's been on the books for a long time but has sat relatively idle. This was enacted in 1970, but it allows family members to petition the court to civilly conduct their loved ones for a substance use disorder.

From 2010 to 2015, there was a fifty percent growth in the number of people that were civilly committed in Massachusetts for a substance use disorder. There are 6,500 patients a year.

When you actually look at the facility, you would not be able to tell the difference between it and your stereotypical jail or prison. People are in orange jumpsuits, it is in fact in an old jail, and again, they're not receiving the type of evidence-based care that we would want people to be able to receive.

So there's just a host of issues with coerced care, all of which we're going to be exploring at the conference, the ways that coercion manifests itself not just in these kind of stereotypical, you know, drug courts or civil commitments, but also even looking at residential facilities. What does coercion look like there? Is it truly voluntary? Is it truly evidence-based?

Who is being coerced? And what those -- you know, why those populations are so vulnerable, particularly people who are experiencing homeless, LGBTQIA, trans people, people of color, all of these populations that are already experiencing marginalization for a number of reasons, means that they are more likely to be forced into coerced care.

And looking at what the impact is. We're going to have people that have been coerced into care themselves. We're going to be having people on panels that have researched extensively and worked with a lot of these different programs, to both show what the personal impact is on someone's life, but also what the broader impact is.

So we're really excited to just be bringing people together from all different walks of life and all different backgrounds to talk about these various issues.

DOUG MCVAY: I'm just -- I'm just, I'm really excited about this. I'm really glad to see you moving in this direction, DPA moving in this direction, I think it's terrific. I mean, I worked at NORML in the 1980s, and we would only say "decriminalize," we wouldn't use the "L" word as we called it, legalization.

LINDSAY LASALLE: Right.

DOUG MCVAY: We didn't want to scare people, we didn't, you know, it was what we would settle for, it's what we thought we might be able to get, and it was, you know, that was then. And, you know, people, drug policy reform has evolved, and I'm so glad that you're evolving in this direction. It's just, I'm really pleased with what I've seen at DPA over the last few years.

Now, this, May 16 and 17, it's "Coercive Treatment: Moving Beyond 'For Your Own Good'". They can -- tell me, now, well, yeah, if you have another minute or two, could you tell me about some of the people you have coming to speak?

LINDSAY LASALLE: Yeah, of course. So, we start out with kind of a double keynote, Ari Ne’eman and Maia Szalavitz. Ari is an adviser for the ACLU, and he also works as an adviser on a host of disability rights issues.

So he's going to be kind of giving an overview of the institutionalization, the history of institutionalization as people who are disabled or who have been diagnosed with various behavioral health conditions, and kind of explore the ways in which that institutional framework then set the stage for the mass imprisonment of people who use drugs, and also for their coerced care.

And Maia is going to focus then on kind of exploring the current war on drugs and kind of the different manifestations.

On the other panels, we have, I mean, this is just an absolute amazing range of people, from academics, we have Leo Beletsky with Northeastern Law School, Erin Kerrison with Berkeley School of Social Welfare, Jennifer Murphy at Penn State Berks, Rebecca Tiger from Middlebury College.

So, you know, researchers, we have people, attorneys, people on the front lines who are doing this work every day, Jennifer Friedenbach with the Coalition on Homelessness, Bethany Lilly with the Bazelon Center for Mental Health. Just, I mean, just an absolute range of people. Imade Borha from Mental Health Association of San Francisco and Depressed While Black.

So we're really trying to bring in a full intersection lens here for people who have worked in different movements, including, as I mentioned before, the mental health and disability rights spaces, where we can see what can we learn from those movements? What can we learn from institutionalization and the de-institutionalization that we can apply to our fight in the drug policy context against coerced care?

I'll also mention that we are having the first day of the conference, which consists of the keynotes and then a series of panels. The second day we're having more interactive workshops, so for people who really want to dig in on these issues, there will be three workshops.

One is a group discussion on just what I was talking about, the intersectionality of these different movements: Harm reduction, mental health, disability, and others, and how we can start building community and common goals that we can all support.

The second is a training on alternatives to suicide, mental health harm reduction and the drug harm reduction settings. So specifically looking at, for people who are working for instance at a syringe exchange or at an overdose prevention program, how can they help triage acute mental health issues. And so we're providing that training.

We also have a session where we're going to be looking very specifically at a particular type of law, and examining one in California in particular around issues of conservatorship, for people who are homeless and for people who are experiencing substance use disorder.

And so that is going to be a break-out session to really do some legislative planning and brainstorm practical strategies for pushing back against those types of policies and letting -- providing people an opportunity to brainstorm and then take those strategies back to their own community.

DOUG MCVAY: It sounds like it's going to be a terrific, and again, that's Thursday May 16, Friday May 17 in San Francisco. They can find the details on your website. One of the details, I was taking a look, one of the details I noticed, this is free.

LINDSAY LASALLE: It's free, yes. We welcome everyone to come, even if you can only come for a portion of it. That is fine. While each of the panels builds on each other, you will be able to get a really good snippet if you attend any one of them or any one of the trainings.

We do on our website have a registration -- a link to register, so that's great to just give us a headcount, but also feel free to just show up on the day of.

DOUG MCVAY: And, okeh, here we go. And again, the, so -- I know your website, but for -- DrugPolicy.org, of course. Where, let's see, so, it's at the UC Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, May 16 and 17. Yeah, what else should people know?

LINDSAY LASALLE: Well, I think that's, I mean, I think that's about it. The -- oh. Well, this always brings people out: they should know there's free food. That's an important detail, right?

There will be breakfast, lunch, and the other really amusing thing that we're doing on the first day that may interest people is we are having a networking reception around 5:30, so hopefully you'll have been with us the whole day, but if you haven't and you just want to come at 5:30 for a glass of wine and to be able to chat with some of our amazing speakers, or get to know other people who are working in this space, then you can also join us for that, to just do a little networking, meet with some like-minded folks, and have some fun and interesting discussions.

DOUG MCVAY: That was my conversation with Lindsay LaSalle. She's Director of Public Health Law and Policy with the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of Legal Affairs. She's an expert and strategist in the areas of harm reduction and treatment as it relates to drug policy.

I was speaking to Lindsay wabout the DPA’s upcoming conference on “Coercive Treatment – Moving Beyond ‘For Your Own Good’. It will take place in San Francisco on May 16 and 17. It is free to register and attend. More information is at the DPA website, DrugPolicy.org.

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

Well as I mentioned, the 2019 Global Marijuana March was held May 4. Tens, even hundreds of thousands of people around the world demonstrated that day for marijuana legalization, drug policy reform, and social justice.

I attended and spoke at the Global Marijuana March event here in Portland, Oregon again this year. Got some great audio that I’ll be sharing with you over the next couple of weeks. Today, we’re going to hear from Teressa Raiford. She’s a community organizer, social justice activist, and mayoral candidate in Portland.

Teressa Raiford, you are running for mayor?

TERESSA RAIFORD: That's right. That's right. Uncontested so far, I registered in December of 2017, and, yeah, uncontested.

DOUG MCVAY: Portland could certainly use you. Now, you're going to be speaking here in a few minutes at the Global Marijuana March, it's really good to see you here by the way. What do you hope people take away from your talk?

TERESSA RAIFORD: Well, I hope that people refer to not only the new petition that Madeline Martinez and the sisters from NORML have, but they also need to recognize the outcomes in the latest audit, that showed where our dollars were going for our marijuana use.

You know, we're out here, we're working with the industry. We kind of did the work, and our elders did the work, to get it legalized, and some of the money, the majority of the money is not going to the services that we wanted to do.

We were trying to decriminalize poverty, and right now what I'm seeing with the lack of resources that went into houselessness and into, you know, youth and rehabilitation and all kinds of social services that people need that aren't -- that don't need to be police related that are actually health related. There wasn't a lot of funding that went to those services.

We spent a big chunk of the change on more policing of people that are using cannabis, and that's to the detriment of public safety at this point, because people are already feeling very anxious about things.

And even my son, last week I was at the hospital with him up in Vancouver, and he was on life support because he had a seizure. He can't smoke weed outside of his house, on the balcony. You know? He can't smoke on the inside, he can't smoke at any local parks, and then him being a black boy, he can't even take a walk and smoke without having to worry about what could happen to him.

You know, in Vancouver last month they shot three different people, so, their drug task force that they have is targeting people that are using narcotics. They're calling weed a deadly gateway drug, even though it's been legalized. But I guess, you know, if you're a person that lives in poverty, then it's still a gateway to criminalization, so we have to stop that.

We have to destigmatize it. And I believe that it starts in City Hall, because then that position as a city leader, you get to educate the community on destigmatizing, and educating them on the health benefits, and also the benefits that our city can utilize, if we're engaged in the process.

I don't think that people that voted it in would have agreed that so much money went to police and so little went to social change. We can do better. I'm ready to serve us.

DOUG MCVAY: I wish you all the luck in the world, I think it would be terrific to have you in City Hall down here, it's a -- I mean, yeah, the rich get richer, the poor go to jail. It's got to change. It's just got to change.

TERESSA RAIFORD: And our babies are inheriting all of this, and they don't deserve that. We've worked too hard and spent too many decades, too many generations. It's time for us to get it right.

DOUG MCVAY: Now, give me the, please give me your website and also your social media. I follow you on Twitter, but, what's the ....

TERESSA RAIFORD: My website is [teressaraifordformayor.com]. We're also, there's an ActBlue site at Raiford2020.com. And we're on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, all of the same tags, @teressaformayorpdx.

And really, a lot of people I see, we invested in these politicians that we knew weren't going to serve us well. I'm just hoping that our community can help invest in our campaign, because even though we're uncontested right now, I believe that someone's looking for a way in, and when they come in, they're going to have what capital they need in order to try to beat us.

I don't believe that they can win, because we've been committed to community, and I believe that we want a public servant that knows that it's a privilege to serve. But we can't -- we have to be mindful, and we have to be strategic.

This is an opportunity for all of us. People know who I am, they know that my commitment is real. I just hope that they can help me serve us in a better capacity.

DOUG MCVAY: Great. Any closing thoughts for the listeners?

TERESSA RAIFORD: Register to vote.

DOUG MCVAY: Teressa Raiford, thank you so much. Thank you for everything.

TERESSA RAIFORD: Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was my interview with Teressa Raiford, she’s a community organizer, social justice activist, and mayoral candidate in Portland, Oregon. We met up at the Global Marijuana March event in Portland on May 4. She spoke shortly after our interview. Here again is Teressa Raiford.

TERESSA RAIFORD: Because we just got an audit a couple of weeks ago that kind of showed the outcomes of the money that we've been spending on this industry. Right? And we're seeing that the community that we want to decriminalize and that we want to stand up for in the legislature, that they're not being well-represented by the funding that's coming through, the capacity that we built.

The capacity that we stood on the front lines for, the capacity that people like Paul Stanford, people like Madeline Martinez, people like all of the engineers of the legal language that made it possible for us to have a choice of recreation over medication. Right?

So if those people are not being represented, and we're still supporting the politicians that we elected and put in those seats, it's time for change. It's time for change, it's time for change right now.

I've been standing on this front line, and I heard something that Samantha said in her speech about positivity, and how women need to speak out, and how they need to own their right to smoke. They need to own their right to get high, to make themselves feel better, to be medicated, to give them energy where it needs to be.

Because I don't like pharmaceuticals. I'm not a narcotics type person. Right? I like my medication, and I like it smooth, and I like to know what my outcome's going to be, and I like to know that my body and my mind is not going to be influenced in a way that's going to have me misjudging my existence and my reality. And marijuana does that for me.

My son, this past week I had to spend five days at the hospital with him in Vancouver, Washington, because he had another one of his grand mal seizures, and he was on life support for 24 hours. He stayed in the hospital for five days. It's the medications that are off. It's not the opportunity for him to remember to take his medicines. Those medications aren't working and the doctors keep telling him that.

The neurologists, they can't find the problems that are causing the seizures, and all they know is to tell these people to give up on life. I'm trying to find ways to decriminalize and destigmatize outside public use and consumption, because the people in my life that are dying from deadly diseases, and a lot of them are caused by environmental racism, we know that, a lot of them are caused by the trauma of discrimination in this country. We know that.

But we're not doing enough to help them. We're not doing enough from our platforms to build the movement that we invested in thirty, forty, fifty years ago. This movement didn't start yesterday, and it's not going to end tomorrow. We've got you. Vote! Vote! Vote! End stigma! Okeh? End the stigma, now! Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: I just want to say, thank you so much, Teressa, for, you know, acknowledging, you know, a sense of city, a sense of community, the black community, being on the front lines, have always had to deal with looking our shoulders.

I moved back to Portland in 2014, and I had the honor of meeting Teressa Raiford at a rally after my Mike Brown was shot, killed, and murdered, and laid on the floor, laid on the ground, for four hours.

This woman sent out a call to her community, for us to step up and band together. Teressa's never -- she accepts and welcomes all communities, LGBT community, the black community, the white community, the any and everybody inbetween community, the houseless community, and that's where my activism, my advocacy, my passion, and my forefront became, because this woman gave me the platform, put a horn in front of my face and told me that it was my turn to speak.

We believe in the city of Portland, that we can all live in the city of Portland. We believe that in 2020, we should not be having conversations much longer about racism, exclusionary zones, discrimination, practices like the sister just stated, that, it was a hundred years ago.

I am proud to say I am 42 years old today standing on this platform before you, when they told me that I would not be living after the age of 10 years old, coming up in Los Angeles California, in Watts, sleeping on the floor, when there were gunshots, being overpoliced in my community.

I had the opportunity, I'm going to say, and the privilege, to gain my strength in 2014 after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a crippling disease. When I heard that Portland was medicated, I was like, I'm back on my way. But when I got here, I also started to hear that it was going to become recreational. And that I could be able to go into a dispensary, or have a part of a conversation that would allow me and my family to not be stigmatized for taking care of our mental health, and our mental wellbeing, for all of the racism when we go back to the conversation.

So today, I have joined in this moment with this universe, the universe definitely brought us together, because I had no idea that this was happening. I've been on the front line as well, dealing with housing issues in the community, worked for the Urban League of Portland, worked for join [sic], been with Sisters of the Road, been with Right 2 Survive, building a black village, working at the first hiphop dispensary in Portland, Green Hop.

Can we just give Green Hop, Karanja Crews, for giving us another space to be able to walk into the door and community when he put his career on the line as an educator to continue to keep educating his community, for economic development, economic power.

So, we ask you to just look out for us, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2025, we here, we're in the building. Shout out to these sisters and brothers that put this together. Shout out to all the amazing people that got us here today. And shout out to you for being here. Much love, much respect. I'm out.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Teressa Raiford, a community organizer and mayoral candidate in the city of Portland, speaking at the Global Marijuana March event in Portland, Oregon on May 4.

And 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.

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.