05/13/20 Abbie Rosner

Abbie Rosner reports for Forbes, her focus on how older adults are re-discovering cannabis & psychedelics + Kassandra Frederique Dir of DPA re What Does DPA Do During a Pandemic?

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Guest: 
Abbie Rosner
Organization: 
Drug Policy Alliance
Abbie Rosner
Download: Audio icon FDBCB051320.mp3
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Cultural Baggage

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HOST DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker your host, our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection and the Liars who’s support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies and 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.

DEAN BECKER: Hi friends. I am the Reverend Dean Becker. This is Cultural Baggage a bit later, we're going to hear from Cassandra Frederique. She's the managing director of policy for the Drug Policy Alliance. She'll be talking about covid-19. But first up; Folks today, we're going to be speaking with a freelance writer based up in the Philadelphia area. She specializes in the emerging cannabis space with a special interest in the ways that Baby Boomers and older adults are experiencing cannabis at the personal, institutional and policy levels and she also delves into other aspects including her most recent which was titled psychedelic drugs can improve quality of life and death for older adults. And with that, I want to welcome Abbie Rosner. How are you Abbie?

ABBIE ROSNER: I'm great. Thanks so much

DEAN BECKER: Abby. I don't know your age exactly but us older folks. We do have particular needs and situations that, that have to be dealt with and we find that marijuana in particular is of benefit. But now there are a lot of folks around the country talking about psychedelic drugs can also be of benefit. Tell us about your most recent article. Will you?

ABBIE ROSNER: Okay, Sure Dean. I started to become interested in psychedelic drugs when I was reading about how they're being studied to treat Mental Health Conditions and how very effective they are for issues like treatment-resistant depression anxiety, PTSD and also end of life and so after writing about cannabis and Baby Boomers and older adults for some time. One of the issues that came up really largely is the problem of polypharmacy among older adults, you know older adults in the United States take more drugs than I think anywhere else on this planet and you know, it's not unusual to talk to somebody who says. Oh, you know, I take 17 different pills a day. Now. There's something wrong with that in my opinion particularly because a lot of these medicines interact poorly with one another and end up sending people to the hospital.

So the Psychedelic drugs work in a very different way instead of taking anti-anxiety medication every single day for the rest of your life. This is a one-time treatment where you have therapy, you have a one or two or three sessions with the psychedelic drug, and then you have therapy at the end to integrate and that's it. It's over and you're what the researchers are finding is that there are really long term results that endure over time so I thought that that was pretty impressive and important for older adults.

DEAN BECKER: I would have to agree with you may not be aware of my programs but each segment each program. We introduced a segment titled name that drug by its side effects because as you're saying these drugs have so many complications may be just on their own let alone when you combine them together, and yes. If you can cut down on the number of pills a person as ingesting. You probably help improve their overall health wouldn't you think?

ABBIE ROSNER: Oh, absolutely and I think that we'll just to mention about cannabis cannabis medicine is very different from pharmaceutical drugs and from the traditional medical approach and really it's kind of driven by the patient or by the consumer because you don't when you working with cannabis medicines. You don't have a prescription from a doctor. You really have to understand the different kinds of medicines, that tinctures, the lotions, the concentrates and the different strains of flower and work with those on your own to find out what's best for you. So in a way for some people it's daunting, but for some people it's very empowering to be able to control the kind of medicine that they need for any given time. Maybe they need one med for the evening to relax and to sleep another medicine in the day to control their pain and they can achieve go that with one under the One Umbrella of cannabis medicine.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I want to jump back just a bit to the psychedelics and you know, it's not just for old folks. I am quite aware and I think many people are that Bill of the Alcoholics Anonymous Fame. Was noted for using psychedelics as he was ending his addiction to alcohol and we fought, we find that many people in this Modern Age are finding great success in limiting or stopping their use of alcohol and or tobacco cigarettes through the use of mushrooms or other psychedelics and again with long-lasting effects as you indicated earlier there Abbie.

ABBIE ROSNER: Right. Well, I think one of the interesting things to watch right now is the that there is a very very exciting new industry of psychedelic drugs that are making their way to through through Phase 2 and phase 3 studies on their way to to being released for public use and one of the exciting areas is for addiction control now, I think that one of the reasons why the FDA is so Cooperative in these studies is because there really isn't any effective strategy for treating addiction. And this is you know, as we know from the opioid crisis let alone alcohol. This is a huge problem in the United States and you know, it may seem kind of radical to have a psychedelic experience to be able to treat addiction. But what they're finding is that this is a very very effective approach.

DEAN BECKER: Well indeed, they are with great success. It's not always perfect. There is no perfect drug. I don't think in this world but where it has benefit I think we should make good use of it. Now. Let's get back to the thought that your focus is I don't know in educating older folks now many of us older folks. We use marijuana back in the 60s and 70s perhaps but gave it up for several decades couple of score years if you will, but, but we're learning that it that it still has great benefit for those older folks, right,

ABBIE ROSNER: correct. Well, well first of all you have to do beginning that you said you didn't know how old I am. Well, I'm a pure baby boomer and and I'm one of those people that you know, spoke pot when I was in high school and college and then when I had children got married and raised, you know family, I stopped for decades and then then when my children were grown, I just

I became curious to ReDiscover this plant and and I think that a lot of people who you know who did have experiences in their youth and are thinking about it. Now, they're dealing with a lot of stigma and fear and that's one of the things that I'm really interested in helping them to understand and look at their fears and see if they're rational or not. You know, one of the things that we always hear is oh, well, you know the Cannabis today is way was stronger than it

used to be and you know, it's so much more potent. And and I think that for one thing that's true, but the other thing is that doesn't mean that you have to avoid it at all costs. It just means that you have to consume it a little more thoughtfully just means that that you'll consume less and if we were used to little baggies of sticks and stems and leaf the Cannabis today is it's like it's like, you know like a fine Whiskey, it says it's cannabis today is bread very carefully and thoughtfully and there is an appreciation for the terpenes and the the different cannabinoids that are in the Cannabis.

ABBIE ROSNER: So it actually becomes kind of a connoisseur. You can even become a connoisseur. So I think that people don't need to be afraid about that aspect and the other thing is that cannabis now is the active ingredient in all kinds of medicine. So if you let's say, oh, I don't want to smoke. I'm afraid of smoking there are many other options. You can use it to show you can put it under your tongue and and get just the same kind of as well. I don't know about the same kind of effect, but certainly you can get beneficial effects from this cannabis medicine. So I would just say that for older adults that did you cannabis in the past and are concerned about using it now. I think that that they really don't have anything to be afraid of.

DEAN BECKER: No, I think for too many of us. We were lured by John Wayne and all the other movie stars and the doctors telling us that cigarettes were outstanding and mild and Etc back in the 60s and form it for many of us we wound up with COPD and it's very difficult to now smoke cannabis as you say there are other alternative means and among them cookies and other Edibles which are now on the market as well. Now one of your columns there in Forbes talked about making cannabis medicines available to the isolated elderly to institutions so it can be done and I before I get your response there I want to just say this. I know that in Israel where the United States has paid for decades of research. They have made the determination that is safe and effective medicine and each morning at their nursing homes. They hand out cannabis medicines to their elderly, but would you Please talk about the isolated elderly.

ABBIE ROSNER: Okay. Well, I just wanted to just mention that I don't think that in all Israeli nursing homes. They hand out cannabis, but I know that it is it is prevalent there and there is a very tall and very supportive approach to cannabis in Israel, but I do believe that particularly for the elderly I think cannabis has an important place and my heart goes out to really the elderly that are in these nursing homes in long-term care facilities who are given medications that are very dangerous with terrible side effects to treat their anxiety and their depression that can potentially kill them. These are medications that have black box warnings on them to try to control their agitation of patients with dementia, depression of people who are just feeling isolated and alone when cannabis medicine can be so much more effective for them. It can improve their mood it can calm them and help them to to feel to sleep better and just to in general to feel better with basically no side effects. They side effects are are trivial- dry mouth, maybe some dizziness now always there's a concern about falling but certainly the compared to the drugs that are regularly given to these older adults these elderly people in these institutions, but you can't even compare the risks that cannabis offers it has which where are so minimal. So I feel like it's really a human rights issue basically to deprive these elderly elderly patients of a medicine that could be so helpful for them and particularly in states that have medical marijuana programs. And one of the interviews that I had was with a the director of a long-term care facility in Riverside in New York, right outside of New York City and he told me he said for me the idea that, that the citizens are that the residents in my facility would be deprived of a medication that any Resident of New York State could have is discrimination and I won't stand for it. So I felt that he was really a hero. So and I'd like to I just would say that I think I was having with my article to to encourage more institutions to really consider the well-being of the residents over there over their fears and

DEAN BECKER: once again We've been speaking with Abbie Rosner she writes for Forbes. I want to I don't know just talk about you for a moment, Abby. You're not exactly unique. But you're one of a few writers that has this particular Focus. That is daring. If I dare say are there use that word to speak boldly to bring forward these ideas that we've been doing it wrong for so many years. Now what compels you Abbie Rosner?

ABBIE ROSNER: And I guess I'm not a fear driven person and I look at this plant and I think it has so much medicinal value. I just can't believe all the all the this the fear in the hype. So I feel like if there's something that can benefit so many people let's let's make it available for them. Just seems like oh also one other thing I want to mention I really feel like the turning older adults into the cash cows of the pharmaceutical industry is wrong and I believe that if there's a plant that can help our health. It's like it's like a gift from nature and why shouldn't we be able to access that and use it in a in a natural and and healing way so I guess that's really what motivates me.

DEAN BECKER: All right, you know Abbie especially with the cratering of the oil and gas industry here of late and I guess other than perhaps the weapons manufacturing, the pharmaceutical industry is the biggest gorilla in the jungle these day so to speak, they bribe the politicians and they get the laws and they keep raising their prices where the United States now pays more for these drugs than any country on Earth we have been we have been bamboozled and it's time for a new Direction. You're closing thoughts their Abbie Rosner.

ABBIE ROSNER: Well, I'm you know, this pandemic has really shaken the country to its core. I think we're going to be dealing with a lot of questioning about how we deal with the our health care and how how the country and how the, the federal government is involved in our health care and I think that we're going to probably be demanding a different approach to to caring for ourselves and our well-being and I think that that fits very well with with looking at cannabis medicines as an alternative something that that people can have more control of their own Health Care by- by using cannabis products, so I think that that's I think that that's really going to I think that as we recover from this pandemic, I think we're going to start to see more people seeking more natural solutions particularly if they're supply-side- Supply supply chain issues with getting pharmaceutical drugs. It might this might be the time that people say, you know what I'm really tired of taking my pain medications. I'm going to try cannabis and they might find that like, so many thousands of other people who manage to stop taking pain pills because they are either successfully using cannabis. They might find that that they're able to stop those medications as well.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, we were speaking there with Abbie Rosner. You can catch most of her writings on forbes.com.

It's time to play name that drug by its side effects rash, hives, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, yellow eyes. Swelling of the tongue hoarseness, dark urine and fainting, fever, irregular heartbeat, mental or mood changes, seizure and death time's up the answer from the UCB group Zyzall for asthma.

All right now as promised from the ongoing drug policy Alliance series “drugs and stuff”.

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GABRIELLA: Thanks for tuning into drugs and stuff. I'm your host Gabriella, today we're continuing our series of content focused on responses to the covid-19.

We wanted to take a moment to share with our listeners what this time has meant for DPA specifically. So I asked Kassandra Frederique DPA’s managing director of policy advocacy and campaigns to come back onto the podcast and break that down for us. Let's listen in;

Kassandra, I just wanted to ask you I mean, obviously we're in a really challenging moment right now, worldwide. I was wondering if you could say a little bit about how DPA is responding to this covid-19 pandemic and what about our work is staying the same and what about it has had to change and what does that mean for the future of DPA?

KASSANDRA FREDERIQUE: I think this is an incredible moment just in its vastness and it's pervasiveness this moment where so many things are being elevated and excavated in society. We're seeing the role of race and class and access play out in such a dramatic way it is very difficult to wrap your head, your mind around all the different ways people are being impacted and I think that's the case for us here at Drug Policy Alliance as well. I mean personally, you know, our whole operation has moved remote. We're not seeing each other. I think some departments are having to adjust in different ways, you know, there's a large portion of our staff whose job is going to state legislators and meeting with people and seeing people face to face and you know, we're all having to figure out how can we use technology to continue to push, you know, right now, I'm like on a thread like should we do a car protest in front of this governor's office on because everyone social distancing but in New York City where no one has a car but to our programmatic work, you know, one of the things that for us we have always been an organization that has focused on decarceration; one of the first organizations focusing on getting rid of mandatory minimums and saying that people who are drug involved should not be in the criminal legal system and I think in the moment of covid that ask is being elevated everyone is talking about decarceration. I mean, this is something that we have pushed for for a while. If you look at the work that we've done Prop 36 if you look at the in California or the work that we've done in New York around getting rid of the madatorymin for Rockefeller drug laws the push for us consistently to get prosecutors to decline to prosecute drug charges in the work that we done drug policy action worked with allies around an election Oregon and in Albany and Ithaca in New York City, you know, we've been pushing these conversation about you know, drugs should not be dealt with in the criminal legal system, jails and prisons are an inappropriate place for people who are under the law and and you know, I think this moment rightfully is calling the question of jails and prisons are inappropriate place period right now and that's important and DPA, you know, our work has always focused on the fact that people shouldn't be incarcerated for what they put in their bodies, right and more recently, you know through the publishing of our report about rethinking the drug seller, you know, it's also recognizing that people who sell drugs are a part of the system around your prohibition and if we got rid of prohibition would be looking at people who deal drugs in the same way and really calling to question in our movement the arbitrary lines between Sellers and users. And like how do we actually come up with a set of Demands that's actually more responsive and reflective of the moment of the system of drug prohibition that we're advocating right? And that's a conversation. We were already having it when we published a report in December and now here in covid-19 recognizing very quickly that that's why mine is a lot shorter. Like how people who sell any drugs should not be in jail. Yeah, and that is the work that we were coming to and that arguably different parts of our organization have been but I think more organizationally and comprehensively that is the thing that people should not be incarcerated and they need to get out and so, you know, we've done the decarceration work you know, moving towards decriminalization really focusing on declining to prosecute decriminalizing marijuana pushing for the conversation around decriminalizing drug possessions and low-level drug sales, you know, we are a part of the Coalition of people in Oregon doing an exciting ballot initiative that should people in Oregon can vote in in November around decriminalizing drugs literally prosecutors across the country are saying we're not going to we're going to decline to prosecute drugs we want on law enforcement to not arrest people for drugs. We already had a ballot initiative. There there are multiple states that we're talking to right now for decriminalization of drug legislation.

KASSANDRA CONTINUED: We went to Portugal two years ago or actually like yeah two, three years ago to do a study trip on Portugal. We are having the conversations. We are talking to folks. We are in conversation around doing Hydro Mortar performing trials in different parts of the state, having study groups around regulation and save some time. These are all things that we were doing I think covid-19 creates of the urgency for us to get to a faster right? We are in the middle of a pandemic the people that we work with and the people that we are we have never had the luxury of slow stepping reform, right always pushing but we need to recognize that this moment requires a different level of urgency. And so the things that we have asked for were asking for again, and we're asking with more people and I think that's what's different about this moment. Is that more people are recognizing that we don't have time to waste, we don't have the time for Perfection. We have the time for now and I think that is a lot of what we're seeing. We're signing onto different sign on letters Public Health ones criminal justice ones user Union ones recovery ones really are getting our community here supporting our allies at harm reduction coalition,

vital strategies and Pennsylvania harm reduction conference to really push forward the kind of Health infrastructure that our folks need, you know, one of the things that we also part of our work is bringing dignity or elevating the Dignity of the people in our community and I think that you know as people talk rightfully about the health care workers that are risking their lives right now fighting on the Forefront of the pandemic in our hospitals, I think people also are recognizing that there are health care workers that are not called healthcare workers. Those are homeless Outreach folks right, the syringe exchanges those, the people around the methadone clinic. Those are the doctors that provide people knocking our movement has a shadow Healthcare System. We are another Health Care system that complements and supplements the kind of Care system that we have because our current Healthcare System doesn't recognize our folks. People who use drugs store eclis are not being respected in hospitals and in medical clinics, and so they're getting their Primary Care as soon as exchanges that getting their Primary Care at the homeless shelter. They're getting their Primary Care at the methadone clinic because these are vectors of health care for our community and I think in this moment as people recognize in this crisis, which is laying out the different structural inequities and the imbalances where people are realizing how most people can't social distance people in jails prisons and detention centers can't social distance, you know, we're having this fight in Pennsylvania where they closed the liquor stores and people are saying alcohol withdrawal is actually is one of the only withdrawals that people can die from and that's why it's supervised and we actually do have to keep alcohol stores. As a matter of public safety and a matter of public health, right? These are all the things that are being elevated to this moment because they have to take our people into account right because everyone's trying to flatten the curve and can't find the curve without finding the curve inside of jails prisons and detention centers. You can't flatten the curve. You can't ask and ask people to social distance of people are almost right and there are many drug laws that make it very impossible for people to, to get housing you can't social distance of people are congregating to use drugs or two because they don't have syringes and so they're sharing syringes which creates which exacerbates them back within a pandemic around HIV and AIDS or the overdose places. There are so many things that our community, communities health and dignity and respect is integral to us being able to flatten the curve to be able to manage Covid-19. These are the asks that we have always had right? These are the demands that we have always had and I think covid-19 gives us the ability and the urgency but also the courage and the okay for the Relentless determined Unapologetic advocacy of the idea that this is not you know, we have always said these are issues of life and death and people did not believe us until it was about life and death.

DEAN BECKER: Okay folks. I learn a lot from the drug policy Alliance and you can to please visit their website drugpolicy.org. So sad I'd have to say this, one more time- 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 of production of the Pacifica Radio Network, archives are permanently stored at the James A Baker III Institute for public policy and we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.