07/08/20 Anne-Marie Cockburn

Taking Drugs Seriously: Transform Drug Policy Foundation and Anyone’s Child recently held a webinar entitled “Take Drugs Seriously.” We hear from two of the panelists: Anne-Marie Cockburn, one of the founders of Anyone’s Child; and Johann Hari, author of the bestseller Chasing the Scream: The Search for the Truth About Addiction. Plus, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopts an ordinance to allow the establishment and operation a supervised consumption facility.

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Guest: 
Anne-Marie Cockburn
Organization: 
Drug War Facts
Anne-Marie Cockburn
Johann Hari
Download: Audio icon COL070820.mp3
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Transcript
Century of Lies
070820

DEAN BECKER: (00:00)
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 a century of lies.

DOUG McVAY: (00:19)
Welcome to century of lies. I'm your host, Doug McVay, the San Francisco board of supervisors recently adopted an ordinance, allowing the establishment and operation of a supervised consumption facility in San Francisco. We're going to hear a portion of that meeting. Now, the first speaker is board of supervisors, president Norman Yee. He introduces the sponsor of the legislation, supervisor, Matt Haney.

Speaker 3: (00:42)
Okay. Supervisor Haney. Thank you. Uh, president ye and colleagues. Uh, I first want to thank mayor breed and her staff, uh, for their leadership and their partnership on this important piece of legislation. I also want to thank all of the many, uh, organizations and leaders who are a part of the safer inside coalition. Um, these groups have been driving this movement over the years and have been on the front lines with their outreach efforts to community members, most impacted by the drug overdose crisis in our city. Um, this is a, um, not a new issue or this board of supervisors. Um, there have been taskforce working groups, uh, committee hearing after committee hearing about a safe injection site. And the overwhelming consensus of all of those efforts has have been that this is something that San Francisco must do. Um, as soon as we possibly can, um, it will get, uh, drug use, uh, off of our streets.

Speaker 3: (01:48)
Um, it will get people into treatment and care and services. What's importantly, save lives. Um, this proposal for overdose prevention programs would extend the harm reduction strategies already in use, um, and is designed to further reduce the health and societal problems associated with drug use. Um, San Francisco has a very strong and long history of creating innovative programs to provide access to syringes, to prevent HIV, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases are running the use of the lifesaving drug Naloxone and expanding effective substance use disorder, treatment programs such as medication assisted treatment. Um, this is the next and most critical step forward in that, uh, process of, uh, preventing overdoses and saving lives. And what we are doing today is not a new or radical idea, a hundred overdose prevention sites now operate in over 65 cities around the world. No site has experienced an overdose death and many have transitioned thousands of people into treatment and detox services.

Speaker 3: (02:54)
Um, this legislation will create a permanent program so that health, um, can begin the process to set up overdose prevention sites. Um, this has to be a part of a multipronged comprehensive strategy to stop overdoses of which we had over 300 last year, a massive increase in the number of people who have died on, on in our city, um, prevent, uh, open, uh, drug use on our streets and sidewalks, um, which has devastated neighborhoods that I represent. And I know that many of you represent as well, um, and save countless lives. Um, so I want to thank again, the mayor for her leadership, both when she was a supervisor and now as mayor for standing strong in her support for this, uh, to Senator Wiener and our legislative delegation for their continued support and, uh, supervisor mandolin, uh, as well for being a cosponsor. Um, this is something that we must do, and this is the next step in opening, an overdose prevention site in San Francisco. Okay. Thank you. Madam clerk, call the roll

Speaker 4: (04:05)
On item 23 supervisor Peskin Peskin I supervisor Preston Preston. I supervisor Ronan.

Speaker 5: (04:14)
Hi

Speaker 4: (04:14)
Ronan. I supervise herself. I E a selfie I supervisor Stephanie.

Speaker 5: (04:21)
Hi,

Speaker 4: (04:22)
Stephanie, I supervisor Wilton, Wilton. I supervisory E I supervisor fewer and fewer I supervisor Haney. Alright, Haney. I supervisor mandolin,

Speaker 5: (04:40)
Right?

Speaker 4: (04:40)
Middleman I supervisor Mark Maher. I, there are 11 eyes.

DOUG McVAY: (04:48)
Objection. The first reading you just heard the San Francisco board of supervisors vote unanimously to adopt an ordinance, to allow the establishment and operation of a supervised consumption facility in San Francisco. You're listening to century of lies. I'm your host, Doug McVeigh editor of drug war facts.org, the transformed drug policy foundation, and anyone's child held a webinar recently entitled take drugs. Seriously. First up here's one of the founders of anyone's child and Marie Coburn.

MARIE COBURN: (05:19)
Hello everyone. I am off as mom. Many of you will have had my study before for those of you who haven't next month will be the seventh and the bassinet of the day. My life changed forever. That day has become the measuring point for my life. Now, the before and after it was a beautiful July Saturday morning, a day, just like today, skills have been about to bake up for the summer holidays. I was planning some day trips and things for us to do throughout the summer. Martha was making funds and had to arrange to meet up with her friends, to watch all the Pixar together. That's when that morning, well, the cycle from our home to the other side of Oxford to go kayaking, never in my wildest nightmares, could I have imagined what was about to unfold? I got the coal, the one that no parent wants to get, I got it.

MARIE COBURN: (06:16)
The voice said your daughter is greatly ill and we're trying to save her life. Can you imagine that? I will never forget those words. They are etched to my very core after kayaking, Martha swallowed, half a gallon of white PODER. That turns out to be 91% pure ecstasy. She died three hours later, teenage Dublin gone horribly wrong. Her beautiful life wiped out so easily. I want to slip away in my days as an active mother, we're no longer this isn't a TV drama, or a box set or Netflix life. Carol became the headline. My only child died age 15 from an accidental ecstasy overdose. Those words make me shutter. As I say them, knowing the truth is so hard to accept. One minute I was planning was still on holiday. The next my life became blank. It was as soon as somebody had pressed the reset button, but the world carried on and the sun didn't fall out of this guy in time.

MARIE COBURN: (07:23)
I started to piece my life back together again, and how to find strength from nowhere to start the journey of my life without my go. Martha was my future. She had so much potential waiting to unfold and her life contains many of my own hopes and dreams. The love we have for our children is like nothing else. That bond, hi, protective. You feel how much you want them to be happy and have a fulfilling life. Not going to still there. Despite the fact that she's not grief is a cruel, but powerful motivator. Since losing Martha, I have reluctantly been propelled into the world of drug policy campaigning, a frustrating world where the political disregard for scientific evidence is astounding. We've all witnessed that. And recently, during the Corbett places, when the government chooses to ignore expert advice that we know directly impacts all our futures.

MARIE COBURN: (08:22)
So why am I campaigning for the legal control and regulation of all drugs? Well, the kind of drug laws have been in place for 50 years and they don't work every year. More and more people die due to their inadequacies inadequacies of the current laws, no substances made safer by leaving it unregulated on the black market. We knew that modern society needs a drug laws to be brought up to date and use the science and expert evidence available to us to follow new policies. Well, as he said, keep the young and bundle safe and laws that register harm to members of our society County lines and nighttime are caused by these modern day. Al Capone style took Wars Oh, due to prohibition. Prohibition has never worked. All it does is create a very lucrative black market. And there's no quality control, no health based approach, no regulatory framework, no concern for your wellbeing or your life.

MARIE COBURN: (09:21)
That is why I want drugs to be legally controlled and regulated. No responsible period was to think of the child taking drugs, but had Martha taken ecstasy that was obtained from a regulated source that included a list of ingredients and recommended dosage. She would not have taken enough for five to 10 people in one goal. After all the difference between poison and medicine is dogs legal control and regulation. Isn't about a free flow and it certainly isn't about causing more harm. It's about responding to what's needed. The government's aim is to be just a number of people taking drugs, but you only need to look at how drugs are in our prisons to see how much of a failure that is. I believe that has success with drug policies should be measured by a reduction in the number of drug related deaths, rather than by counting the number of users.

MARIE COBURN: (10:13)
The good news is that we've all seen a change over the past few years, as more and more NPS from across all parties have been willing to openly discuss this subject and then should it's kept on the agenda as there too to recognize high beta is that we sought this out as I think of Michael and of all the other families who are also suffering, I feel very proud to be part of the anyone's shell campaign together. We are resolute together. We are determined to do what we can to help keep this important conversation for change going and to collectively represent our loved ones who can no longer speak for themselves. I've discovered that embedded be that annoying people and then make an NP squirm. And I will continue to do that until change happens. So on behalf of my crashes, Martha, and in order to protect your loved ones, I asked you all to contact your NPS to ensure that they are actively playing their part in helping to place this problem firmly into our history books. Thank you.

DOUG McVAY: (11:13)
That was Ann Marie Coburn. She spoke recently on a panel entitled take drugs seriously. That was organized by the transformed drug policy foundation and anyone's child. You're listening to century of lies. I'm your host, Doug McVeigh. Now let's hear from another panelist. Johann Hari is the author of chasing the scream, the search for the truth about addiction.

JOHANN HARI: (11:35)
I've just been thinking about, well, I'm a Marine and sunny, and Chris was saying, how moving it? Wasn't there. There's so many moments I think on the subject, when you feel the weight of the grief of the unnecessary deaths and pain that the drug war is causing every day. And I wanted to just say about Ann Marie in particular, you know, I've been to lots of places in the research for chasing the scream. And then obviously talking about the book and in so many places, Amarie, your story has resonated with people. The amazing work that you've built around around the, around the loss of your daughter, Martha, and what you've done with that loss, obviously nothing can ever compensate for the horrific agony of what you've been through to build this extraordinary positive legacy for your daughter. I think saying you should be so proud of it.

JOHANN HARI: (12:26)
I think from, you know, off the top of my hand from New Zealand to Johannesburg, to Mexico city people talk to me about your story and how it had helped them. So you should be so proud of what you're doing. And I thought was saying, Chris said, we're really, it was really amazing as well. I'm going to order Chris's book. When we get off this call, I thought, what, well, I would talk. And it's very related to that thing that I've been thinking about. What I would talk about is the evidence about why this is so unnecessary. So a lot of people will hear the kind of things that we've been. We've all been saying, right? And they'll think, well, this is a tragedy, but drugs, addiction, drug use, this is just a tragic subject, right? And I think, you know, and there's just terrible tragedies.

JOHANN HARI: (13:05)
Cause cause people use drugs and tragedies calls cause people become addicted. And that's just a sad thing about life and things. And other people have said this so, so much better than I can. But one of things I really want to explain is that that's not the case that actually you could have all the drug use we currently have and all the addiction we currently have and far fewer deaths and far more people having good lives. And the reason I know that is because I went to the places that moved beyond the war on drugs. And I just thought, I'd talk about two of them. And they both started that change process in the year 2000. So in the year 2000 Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in the world. And 1% of the population was addicted to heroin, which is extraordinary. And every year they tried essentially the American way more.

JOHANN HARI: (13:52)
They arrested more people. They chased them around, they put them on trial, they imprisoned them. And every year the problem got worse until finally one day the prime minister and the leader of the opposition decided to do something really radical. Something nobody had done in the 70 years since the global drug war began, they said, should we like ask some scientists what the best thing to do would be? So they set up a panel of scientists and doctors led by an amazing man. I got to know them doctors. Ragula who some of you guys know as well. And I said to this panel, you guys go away, look all the best evidence, take as much time as you need go anywhere. You have to go and you come back and tell us what will genuinely solve this problem. And we've agreed in advance. We'll do whatever you recommend.

JOHANN HARI: (14:41)
So it was, the idea was to just take it out of politics. So the panel went away, they looked at loads of different things and they came back and they said, okay, here's what we're going to do. We're going to decriminalize all drugs from cannabis to crack the whole lot. But, and this is the crucial next step. We're going to take all the money we currently spend on screwing people's lives up, shaming them, arresting them, imprisoning them, punishing them, all the things that Chris was brilliantly exposing. And we're going to take all that money instead, and we're going to spend it on turning people's lives around. And interestingly, it wasn't really what we think of as drug treatment in Britain, right? So, and in most of the kind of Anglo American world. And so they do some residential rehab and that has some value, but actually the biggest thing they did was something in some ways, much simpler, they set up a big program of reconnection for people with addiction problems.

JOHANN HARI: (15:33)
So saying he used to be a mechanic, they go to a garage and they'll say, if you employ this guy for a year, we'll pay half his wages. They set up a really big program of small loans for people with addiction problems. So they could set up and run businesses about things they cared about. The goal was to say to everyone with an addiction problem in Portugal, we love you. We value you. We're on your side. We want you back. Right? Exact opposite of the message that the people that Sonny was brilliantly talking about, uh, getting right, the message that says you're nothing you're worthless. You're, you know, you're a criminal. It was T it was a big program of reconnection. And by the time I went to Portugal, um, the results were in, um, the, the best study of this is by the British journal of criminology.

JOHANN HARI: (16:22)
And the results that found were really unequivocal injecting drug use was down by 50%. Addiction was massively down. Overdose deaths were massively down. HIV transmission was massively down street. Crime was massively down. Um, Portugal went from being almost the top of the European league table for most of these problems to the very bottom, right in, in less than 15 years. And one of the ways, you know, it works so well. Is that almost nobody in Portugal wants to go back. I went and interviewed a man called wow. Fig where I'm sorry. It's anyone who speaks Portuguese. I cannot say these names better. That's how is that? Um, it's Ralphie Guerra, who was the top drug cop in Portugal at the time of the decriminalization. And at the time he said, well, lots of people, understandably, given what they've been told all their lives say, which is surely, if we decriminalize all drugs, we're going to have a, an explosion in drug use and children using drugs.

JOHANN HARI: (17:17)
It's going to be a nightmare. And Cheryl said to me, everything I said would happen. It didn't happen. And everything the other side said would happen dead. And he talks about how he felt really ashamed. That it's been so many years harassing people, punishing people, making their addiction worse when he could have been helping them turn their lives around. So that was one model that's decriminalization that deals with some of the problems. So decriminalization is it's worth defining it, decriminalization where you stop punishing drug users, but they still have to go to criminal gangs to get their drugs. And that still means a lot of promise. It's a huge step forward, obviously, but I still leaves a lot of problems cause there's still a prohibited market. Right. Which has all the problems the Amery talked about and that transform and Jane and everyone there do so much work to expose.

JOHANN HARI: (18:07)
So I want to look at what are models of legalization now, I don't think you need me to talk about cannabis legalization. I've seen that in Canada and Uruguay and Colorado and other places, but I think that's fairly well known. Let's talk about because often people go well, okay, you can sort of see that for cannabis, but what about, let's say heroin, right? And we had addiction in my family, so the same, but close to my heart. And so I went to a country, the legalized heroin. Um, so in the year, 2000 same time Portugal was having this crisis. Switzerland was having a really bad crisis. My dad's actually from Switzerland. It's why I've got this weird name. So I know it quite well, even from them. Um, so people might remember on the news at the time, you know, these images like dystopian images of parks in Switzerland, where people were like open the injecting in the neck, in public and really disturbing, chaotic scenes of really distressed and unwell people.

JOHANN HARI: (19:01)
And that would be bad for any country, but Swiss people are obsessed with order, right? It's not a coincidence. They invented clocks. So like for them, this is like the worst possible nightmare. And again, Swiss people are really right-wing right? Most Swiss relatives make Donald Trump look like Jeremy Corbyn, right? And the instincts of the people in Switzerland were very much authoritarian crackdown. So they were doing that for years, you know, punishing people more and more. And, and then I got a picture that this is one of the famous images from the, from, um, what's it called? Not girl, it's a Parker anyway, one of the parks in Zurich. And, um, it kept going on and kept going on. And then Switzerland got its first ever female president, a complete hero of mine. And when I got to know named Ruth Dreyfus and Jane loves stories, right?

JOHANN HARI: (19:49)
Everyone loves Ruth. She's my candidate for president of the world. And Ruth explained to the Swiss people. When you hear the word legalization, what you picture is anarchy and chaos. But she said, what we have now is anarchy and chaos. We have unknown criminals, selling unknown chemicals to unknown drug users, all in the dark, all filled with violence, disease and chaos legalization. She said, it's the way we're going to restore order to this chaos. So it's important to understand. And then she introduced this policy as she would say. And she always stresses very much backed by civil society from a local prostitutes to doctors, a whole big civil society coalition that was also fighting for change. And it's about to understand what legalizing heroin doesn't mean. Right? So no one, I mean, maybe there's some very hardcore libertarians, but um, virtually nobody thinks they should be like a heroin Ireland boots, right?

JOHANN HARI: (20:45)
That's not, that's not the plan. Right? So the way it works is you can't, you can't just go and openly buy it. The way it works is if you've got a heroin problem, you're offered a range of possible ways you can be helped, but one of them is you can be assigned to heroin prescribing clinics. I spent time in the one in Geneva. And, and so the way it works is you turn up, you have to go at seven o'clock in the morning because Swiss people believe in doing things insanely early. This is a constant source of disagreement between me and my dad. And, uh, you turn up, you go in and your, uh, you're given your heroin. There is medically pure heroin, not the contaminant you get from criminals. Um, and you can't take it out with you partly cause they don't want you to sell it on, but mostly cause they want to monitor you to make sure you're okay, so you shoot up there.

JOHANN HARI: (21:31)
Well, they'll help you. Um, and then you leave and you go to your job because you're given loads of help to get housing, to get work, to get therapy. And there was loads of things that were really striking to me about the Swiss clinics. First was that program has now been in place for 15 years. Does anyone I've just say anyone watching, try to guess how many people have died of heroin overdoses on legal heroin in Switzerland, since this began, Chris is indicating exactly the right number zero, not a single person, significantly more people have died of heroin overdoses in the United States. By contrast, since we started having this conversation, right? Um, no one has died in the legal program, in the illegal program. A small illegal market does persist, but it's fallen every single year. And overdose deaths have massively fallen because who wants to spend loads of money buying shitty contaminate the street heroin when you can get it for free from the government and they'll actually help you as well.

JOHANN HARI: (22:25)
But there were a few things that really surprised me about this program. And I realized that in some ways I was quite naive. So one of them was, if you're assigned to this program, they'll give you your heroine for as long as you want. They'll give you any dose you want, except for one that would kill you. And there is never any pressure to cut back. And when I learned that, I thought, well, surely everyone just stays on it for everything because we're told over the drug takes you over slaves. You can eat more and more of it. Rita manga, who's the psychiatrist. He runs the clinic. Look to me like I was stupid. She explained there's almost no. When I went in there, this is a few years ago. Now there was like, I think there were two people who were still on the program had been on there.

JOHANN HARI: (23:13)
Who've been there at the star. So almost everyone does cut back and stop using heroin on this program. And I was like, well, well how can that be? And she said to me, it was kind of obvious. Well, we help them. And as their lives get better, they don't want to be anesthetized so much. Which kind of obvious, right. Addiction is not primarily as Sonny was getting at addiction is not primarily about the drug. Addiction is primarily about the pain, your underlying pain, the opposite of addiction is connection, right? You're if you're in deep pain, if you want to understand what people seek out painkillers, you've got to understand why they're in pain. They've got to deal with that underlying pain. And one of the things I think is just to kind of wrap up on this one, things that's so important to know about Switzerland is should really give us hope is like I say, Switzerland's are really right-wing place, right?

JOHANN HARI: (24:03)
And yet Swiss people after this program had been in place for a couple of years, had a referendum on this. They have referendums on everything Switzerland, right? You can trigger one very easily. And you know, I think people thought, Oh, it's going to be overturned. Or they had a campaign. I really recommend people look up other, it's a very good observer about the book, but there's a very good for free, um, Joanne set, C S E T E that a very good report on how they won that campaign. It's just called from the mountain tops. If you Google from the mountaintop Switzerland drugs that will come up or yeah, that will come up. If you can't find it that way. Um, and 70% of Swiss people voted to keep her illegal. Not because they're so compassionate, right? I'd love to tell you it's that. That's not why rather than not.

JOHANN HARI: (24:47)
So compassionate is because it led to such a falling crime, right? For everyone street prostitution is, as Chris was getting ended, literally ended a massive falling muggings, Carfax, and it's much cheaper to help people then harass them and imprison them. Um, so Swiss parks stopped being full of the kind of images that we saw and there's been a massive fall in addiction. And the best research on this is by a guy called dr. Ambrose Oakton. Hargan who's done great work on that. And I think so. I think what that establishes is, um, two things that really important, firstly, there are alternatives that work, that work extremely well. They're not perfect. They still have problems in Portugal in Switzerland, of course, but everywhere I went where they moved beyond the drug war from Vancouver to Urgh Y to Switzerland, to Portugal, you sort of same pattern when it's initially proposed, it's seen as radical mad, wacky insane.

JOHANN HARI: (25:45)
And then people fight for it. It happens and very rapidly, it ceases to be controversial because the improvement is so significant. And so it's achievable in policy terms, it's achievable politically. If they can do it in Switzerland might go, they can do it anywhere also. And it goes back to, I think something that Chris was getting at really well as well. So with any, imagine you're a politician and it's a horrible thought, but imagine it for a second, imagine you're a politician, right? Um, you are constant. If you're a rational politician, you're constantly making a calculation. If I do acts, how much praise will I get and how much shit will I get, right? And at the moment, if you do the right thing on drug policy, the kind of thing that would have saved Martha's life that would have saved the lives of Sonny's friends that would have saved the lives of Chris's clients.

JOHANN HARI: (26:35)
Um, you'll get some price and you'll get a lot of shit, right? But that calculus, which politicians make it a moment, it can absolutely changed and it can be changed by us. And one of the ways I know that is I'm gay, right? And when I was a kid realizing I was gay when I was like nine or 10, that calculus was completely, there was a tiny benefit for standing up for the equality of gay people. And that's not one sentence, you know, I remember when the first gay kiss any standards, right? When I must have been an eight and the front page of the sun, the next day said, it's East benders right now, if the craziest UKIP counselor tweeted that they'd have to resign, right? What happened? The calculus changed because not because politicians changed their mind spontaneously and decided to be nice people.

JOHANN HARI: (27:20)
Although some of them were brave and actually people across the political spectrum were good from tiny band to Edwina Currie. Actually, I wouldn't want to agree with it, but was very good on gay issues. Some of them were brave, but what happened more was the ordinary people demanded change and made our country better. They persuaded their fellow citizens that appeal to people in a spirit of love and compassion. We did it on gay rights. Women's rights. We've done it on so many things. We can be better, right? But it will only happen if all of you sign up to support anyone's child, sign up to support, transform and build a big sustained movement. And we, and we don't give up. And every day the drug war goes on. More people like Martha dye, more people like Sonny's friends die, more people like Chris's clients die. And every person who joins the fight brings the day when we end that war closer and we save huge numbers of people's lives. So I'm really proud to stand a transform with anyone's child. And I urge all of you to, to do the same. Thanks very much.

DOUG McVAY: (28:18)
That was Johann Hari. He spoke recently on a panel entitled take drugs seriously. That was organized by the transformed drug policy foundation and anyone's child. And that's it for this week. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to century of lies. We'll be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs. This is Doug McVay saying so long

Speaker 8: (28:42)
[inaudible]

DOUG McVAY: (28:44)
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, our conduct, the James J. Baker, the third Institute for public policy.