03/18/12 John Coleman

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

John Coleman, former DEA director of operations at Baker Institute + Angel Raich MMJ patient kicked from hospital & Mary Lynn Mathre re forthcoming conference on Medical Marijuana & Doug McVay of Common Sense for Drug Policy

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / March 18, 2012


Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”

“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”

DEAN BECKER: My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.


DEAN BECKER: Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Last week we had Ethan Nadelmann, the director of the Drug Policy Alliance, on for the bulk of the program and I promised you that we would have his opponent at this debate at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy on this week – John Coleman.

Here to give a better introduction is Professor William Martin, a fellow at the James A. Baker, III Institute who put together this conference.


WILLIAM MARTIN: Speaking after him with the opportunity to respond to points with which he disagrees is John Coleman - a man of long, high-level experience with the Drug Enforcement Administration and President of Drug Watch International. He, of course, is, like other speakers, free to challenge the premise of the conference, “Why the Drug War Has Failed.”

JOHN COLEMAN: First of all I’d like to say thank you to the James A. Baker, III Institute of Public Policy for inviting me here and specifically to Bill Martin for inviting me. My good friend, Ethan, has already introduced himself to you.

I want to dispel the notion, the rumor that’s going around the room that Ethan has a “Elect Pat Robertson” sticker on his car. You know, “Pat Robertson for President 2012.” It’s not true is it Ethan?

To begin with to say that I don’t disagree with everything Ethan has said. I disagree with some fundamental areas of the premise of the arguments but I certainly don’t disagree with the issues reducing harms and reducing the problems that we have with the abuse of drugs. That’s a concept that I think we can all accept.

But I do quarrel somewhat with the concept or the premise of today’s conference and that the so-called drug war has failed. Primarily because it really hasn’t been a drug war and we’re going to look at some of the evidence of that.

Richard M. Nixon is often credited with the expression. He really didn’t say it. He said something similar. He said, “We need a war on drug criminals” or “We need a war on crime” but the actual expression drug war or War on Drugs, he probably said it somewhere along the line maybe later on but he didn’t really originate or coin the phrase.

And it’s not in the U.N. 1961 Convention. But it is in the Washington Post and let’s see where it appeared in the Washington Post. On May 26th, 1912 – almost one hundred years ago, the Washington Post had an editorial in which it said the lack of efficient federal laws are handicapping the war on drug habit in this country.

It was a basically an editorial in support of pending legislation that was in the House and Senate at the time that would regulate drugs. That bill actually failed but two years later when it was reintroduced as the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 and the act did eventually pass but this is from 1912 of the Washington Post.

So let’s look at some of the public policy questions evoked by saying there’s no war here. First of all to protect health and safety does congress have the power to pass laws regulating the production and commerce in drugs…or in guns, or in explosives, or poisons? Or, you name it.

They tried to do light bulbs, I think, recently. Later in this month we’re going to have oral arguments before the Supreme Court on whether or not national health care in the commerce clause is constitutional.

So we’ll have to see where congress goes with some of this but I think the overall we probably would have to agree that they do have this authority at least constitutionally.

Do state legislatures have the power to pass laws permitting the medical use of marijuana? This is a little more problematic when you get into some of the technical issues and we’ll explain those in a second.

Do state legislatures have the power to pass laws permitting the recreational use of marijuana? That’s pretty much tied in with the second one.

And then are we obliged as citizens of this country to obey these laws whether we agree with them? And what is that sort of social contract that we all agree even if we disagree with the umpire that, you know, the third call strike is legit we’re going to go home and say, “Our team lost but, hey, there’s another day tomorrow.”

The first obstacle we run into, of course, is the United States Constitution. Article 6 of that constitution (you can read on that screen)

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

What, basically, that says is that our treaties, our narcotic and drug treaties with the treaties with the United Nations and so forth, are binding. They are the law of the land. The Constitution and the laws of the United States that are made in pursuance thereof are also supreme law of the land.

The Federal Control Substances Act, which is the law that basically brings us all together today, section 903 of that act, which oftentimes people don’t refer often to, is the application of state law.

How does state law comport with federal narcotics law or the Federal Control Substances Act? It says right in there that “no provision of this subchapter” - which would be the Federal Control Substances Act – “shall be construed as indicating an intents on the part of the congress to occupy the field in which that provision operates, including criminal penalties, to the exclusion of any state law in the same subject matter which would otherwise be in the authority of the state.”

Now, had congress stopped right there I don’t think we would be here today. There wouldn’t be any problems because we’re basically talking about the states having the authority to do something, however, look at that contingent clause that ends it up.

“Unless there is a positive conflict between that provision of the subchapter and that state law such that the two cannot consistently stand together.”

Here’s where we run into a problem with the state laws versus the federal laws. Now where we bring all this together is in a case of a very famous case in 2005 called Gonzales vs. Raich.

This is a brief synopsis of the case. Many of you are probably already familiar with it. This is taken directly from the West Law abstract on the case. It is not something that I made up but it basically it’s amazing how such a relatively insignificant case involving only 6 marijuana plants winds up changing or at least establishing landmark Supreme Court decision on the issues.

In Gonzales vs. Raich the actual core of the respondent’s argument was not to contest the Controlled Substances Act - in fact they stipulated to most of the conditions of the Controlled Substances Act. There issue was that the federal government did not have the right, in a sense, to control something that was completely intrastate – occurred inside the state of California in as much as the state of California had approved it.

There was no interstate commerce. There was no movement of drugs in or out of the state and so forth. How’s the federal government declare that it has venue in this type of a case?

In a 6-3 decision the Supreme Court held that congress’s commerce clause is already includes the power to prohibit the local cultivation and use of marijuana in compliance with California law.

Justice Stevens delivered the opinion and as you can see by the final bullet on this slide it was the liberal wing of the Supreme Court that found that it was constitutional to ban the use of medical marijuana in California. That it was a constitutional prerogative under the commerce clause of the federal government.


DEAN BECKER: OK, that was John Coleman speaking at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy debating Ethan Nadelmann.

We’ll be back with more from him in just a moment but first this about the subject he was just discussing - Angel Raich – courtesy NBC.


ANGEL RAICH: The pharmacist has said that you are not allowed to have cannabis in this hospital and if you’re going to try to use cannabis in the hospital we’re going to call the feds.

REPORTER: Angel Raich talked to us outside the UCSF Medical Hospital moments after she said she was kicked out of the hospital for using cannabis prescribed to her by her doctors.

ANGEL RAICH: I said, “Now, wait a minute. You are asking me to not use my cannabis and you are basically saying it’s like basically giving me a death sentence because I would have to be without my cannabis.”

REPORTER: Raich checked into the hospital early Monday for doctor-ordered tests on her brain. She says she suffers from chronic pain and has an inoperable brain tumor and seizures. Doctors don’t give her very long to live.

ANGEL RAICH: I’m in a state university hospital in the state of California. And I said, “I have the right to have the same medical care that any other patient does.”

And she says, “Well, you know, we’re going to have to ask you to leave then if you’re not going to not use your cannabis.”

REPORTER: Raich’s fame is in the fight for medical marijuana. In fact, she is the medical cannabis patient that went to the U. S. Supreme Court in 2004 and 2005 to fight for the right to use medical marijuana.

ANGEL RAICH: It makes me feel really terrible because not only am I dying but I can’t have the cannabis. It’s also my case at the heart of this legal debate surrounding the Obama Care Mandate.

REPORTER: Raich says she had no choice but to leave the hospital.

ANGEL RAICH: She proceeded to try to tell me what the law is. I said, “No, you got it wrong. I know what the law is. I helped write the law.”

REPORTER: Minutes into the interview Raich appeared to have seizure.

ANGEL RAICH: I should not…

REPORTER: We called 911 for help. When the fire department and medics arrived they took her to St. Mary’s Hospital.


DEAN BECKER: And now, from the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy, more from John Coleman, former head of operations of the DEA.


JOHN COLEMAN: Now a lot of propaganda that you are going to hear probably today and probably will hear again in the future and you’ve probably heard it already in the past is you will hear things like more than 1,000 dispensaries provide medical marijuana and they’re well-regulated, pay substantial taxes.

Somebody wrote that in the New York Times in 2011. Of course, a couple years before that the Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley said that all the medical marijuana dispensaries in the county (and they have 800) were operating illegally. They were accepting cash over the counter for pot. It’s very simple. That’s prohibited by Prop 215 and the laws of California. And so he said they were operating illegally and they were going to be prosecuted.

Then you will hear that there are 800,000 marijuana arrests each year. 50 to 100,000 people behind bars on any given night for marijuana. Of course they let go in a day. They don’t tell you that.

Actually in 1997...there’s very little data on this and that’s another thing that we’ll get into in a second as well. When you the research on these kinds of things you find that there’s incredible toxicity of data – it just doesn’t exist – good data.

You can find selective data, biased data and so forth that support of refute your hypothesis but basically there’s very little sound, irrefutable factual data. But, anyway, the Rand Corporation in 2004 did undertake a study and found that the actual amount of people incarcerated for marijuana only….is very, very small.

Now, some of these studies in the past have gone into the prisons and they’ve looked at the people who been in prisons – what they were in there for and they conclude that’s what the crimes were that they committed.

Well, about 95 to almost 98% of all drug cases are plead out which means there’s a negotiated plea somewhere along the line so oftentimes they’ll drop more serious charges and allow the individual to plead guilty to, say a possession of marijuana charge and that then becomes the charge in the root of commitment.

Well, if that’s all you’re studying and you’re not looking at the, you know, earlier charges you’re only getting a fraction of the real fact here.

Portugal. We heard Ethan, my friend, talk about Portugal this morning. Portugal is a very interesting case because Portugal epitomizes what I said before about the lack of good data here.

Portugal in 2001 decriminalized the use, acquisition of all illicit drugs for personal use. Well, we had one writer, Glen Greenwald, that wrote a book calling this a resounding success. We had another writer, Manuel Pinto Coelho, who, by the way, in the interest of disclosure is a member of Drug Watch International, but he wrote also that it was a disastrous failure.

A study team from Australia went over to Portugal to actually study whether or not each one of these studies or each one of these reports were true or false. What they found was actually a lot of what both writers were saying. It was actually true in the sense that they said it based on the selective use of the evidence that they cited but, again, here’s one the conclusions was “the Portuguese reform warrants neither the praise nor the condemnation of being a ‘resounding success’ or ‘a disastrous failure.’ That these divergent policy conclusions were derived from selective use of the evidence base.”

Now we in this country have really seriously bad data systems for telling us how many people are harmed or injured or killed as a result of drug abuse. The best we can tell you is from the CDC and the CDC uses death certificates. But we know from some recent tragedies, in fact, that toxicology screens and postmortem examination of decedent does not come back for sometimes 6-8 weeks.

And that certificate has to be issued so the next of kin can have the body buried so oftentimes the death certificate goes in with unknown causes for death and yet later on comes back that it was drugs.

So the death certificate analysis is not a good way of telling us now many people die each year in this country from overdoses of drugs but that’s the best that we have. So, we’re not alone in the world of having bad systems. Portugal doesn’t have a very good system. It didn’t have a very good system when these people did their research. In fact it wasn’t until November of 2010 that Portugal actually adopted a regulation requiring that every suspected drug-related overdose death be autopsied.

So that means that any statements made on the basis of whatever before that were speculative because they were based on reports, perhaps, from the media or elsewhere or specific areas of the country on how many people were dying of drug abuse but nobody really could put their finger on it. So be very cautious of the data.

Drug legalization…here we talked about the 1914 Act. That really created a legal construct for a lot of the drugs and unfortunately many of those drugs today are actually causing …as it says here…”Today, despite sophisticated regulatory schema, the legal drugs in this country cause more deaths this year than illegal drugs – including heroin and cocaine.”

Even combined with that and you can throw in a bunch of other drugs and legal drugs are still doing in more Americans every year.

When I talk to my good friends in the pro-legalization movements they will conceive that there is a need to keep these street drugs away from criminals and children and mentally impaired and so forth. So we would have to reconstruct another sort of schema perhaps somewhere along what we already have for the legal drugs.

Well, if we did that, my final research question to you would be, “How successful would we be in designing a program to ensure the safe use of legalized street drugs if we have thus far been unable to restrict to already legal drugs that are now being misused at higher rates than street drugs?”

And, believe me, I can give you a synopsis of the controls that the DEA has and so forth on the legal drug market. It’s amazing. From point of manufacture to dispensing - those drugs are very tightly controlled. And if we have not been able to successfully control them or keep them away from people who would abuse them it’s doubtful that we would have better luck by legalizing them.

So some final thoughts here.

Do your own non-selective and nonbiased research.

Don’t believe everything you hear or read. Just because something is published doesn’t make it true.

Healthy, drug-free living is really worth the effort.

Be skeptical of information from well-funded advocacy groups looking to convince you.

The drug war has not failed. The drug abuse rates in America today are far below what they were in the 1970s and the 1980s.

The current violence in Mexico is a result of historical lax drug laws in that Nation. They had de facto legalization in Mexico since I can remember because never anybody went to jail down there.

The cases that were made in Mexico usually resulted in large seizures but very few people went to jail and those who went to jail were granted what they called “indulgences” or something in Mexico and they bribed their way out and so really there was very lax drug law enforcement in that country.

Preserving law and order actually prevents the anarchy that we see in places like Mexico. The logical and sequential consequence of anarchy is always tyranny. That’s when the bad guys take over.

Poisoning more Americans by legalizing drugs in this country in return for, perhaps, less violence in Mexico is a very dubious and senseless proposition.

I thank you all very much for your attention and I look forward to discussing this further.


DEAN BECKER: Again, that was John Coleman, formerly with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

This information from SAMSA: Marijuana use over the past few decades:

In 1991 those who had ever used was 30.5%. In 2001 it was 36.9%. In 2009 it was 41.5%.


(Game show music)

DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.

Responsible for countless overdose deaths, uncounted diseases, international graft, greed and corruption, stilled science and events, unchristian moral postulations of fiction as fact.


Time’s up!

The answer: and this Drug is the United States’ immoral, improper, bigoted, unscientific and plain F-ing evil addiction to Drug War.

All approved by the FDA, absolved by that American Medical Association and persecuted by Congress and the cops and in abeyance to the needs of the bankers, the pharmaceutical houses and the international drug cartels.

$550 billion a year can be very addicting.


DEAN BECKER: The following government ads from the 1970s…

[funky 70s music]

ANNOUNCER: Hey, young America. We need to talk.

You may think this is uncool. You may even think it is bogus but I want to tell you about something that has everyone buzzing.

Something that concerns mature boys and girls just like you. Something called grass.

Not that grass. I’m talking about marijuana.


DEAN BECKER: Every couple of years I get the chance to go speak and experts who deal with the subject of medical marijuana and coming up next month I get that chance again. Here to tell us more about it is Mary Lynn Mathre, one of the co-founders of Patients Out of Time.


MARY LYNN MATHRE: Yeah, coming up April 26th to the 28th at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson we will host the Seventh National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics.

The theme for this year’s conference will be “The Endocannabinoid System: Clinical Implications for Health Care.” We want to share this science on the human body which can help a lot of people understand why and how cannabis is such a wonderful medicine for us.

So we’re truly excited. We’ve got researchers coming from Spain, Italy, Israel, Canada as well as throughout the United States.

DEAN BECKER: Mary Lynn, “the powers that be”, the government agents, if you will, go around saying there is no medical benefit. There is …(I mean, I’m sorry for laughing) but it’s become that ridiculous, isn’t it?

MARY LYNN MATHRE: It is. We said something the other day. I don’t see how people who say that can look anyone in the face seriously and say that when we’re looking at all these evidences. I’m not the only one that’s said that.

I’ve heard physicians and researchers say it. This is a no-brainer. I’ve been saying that for years. It’s like, “Why can’t you see?! Open your eyes!”

Yeah, it’s very frustrating. I was very happy. I just noticed yesterday that we got reservations from three different people (a physician and two other people) from the Arizona Health Services. So I’m very glad to know that…

And one of them is the person who’s in charge of their medical marijuana program. So I’m very glad to see that, at least, they’re coming. All we ask is come with your mind open and listen to the science.

We’re not playing with anything. We’re not trying to do a “slight of hands” here or play with statistics. The evidence is very, very clear.

Our focus this time on the endocannabinoid system is, for one thing, just trying to get people to at least open up to the science of the human body. If they don’t want to hear what they believed for years about some of the ridiculous myths about marijuana…if they want to continue to believe those myths – OK – but now let’s talk about the human body and they can understand how these same kind of chemicals that we make in our body are only found elsewhere in the cannabis plant..

Other animals contain cannabinoids but other than in a living organism like that they’re found in plants. That’s the only source for this very, very essential transmitter. It provides signals to the human body that literally tell our body in many, many different processes that go on every day, every minute how to stay in balance - how to keep everything working smoothly. It’s an essential system.

So one of these days maybe they’ll wake up but it is getting old.

DEAN BECKER: It is. Mary Lynn, you know, I’m really looking forward to this event because I know you guys always pick wonderful locations for these conferences. Somewhere a little bit out of the way – a place where we can talk amongst ourselves and not be distracted.

Tell us, once again, where this is going to be and when.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Tucson, Arizona – it became the 15t h state to authorize medical cannabis. The conference will be at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. It’s an absolutely beautiful location – nice and secluded in many ways but just open.

As you said our conference is not only a lot of presenters, the researchers, the patients who present but attendees coming to learn. We keep the faculty there for the full time so that if people don’t get their question answered during the presentation they can find them later.

So I hope many, many people can join us. And, for that matter, that means going to our website which is http://www.medicalcannabis.com. Right on the front page they’ll see information about the conference and clicking on that gives you more details – who the speakers are, what the agenda is.

DEAN BECKER: It is just over a month away folks. I’ve got my reservations. I urge you to do the same. It’s, as I say, every couple of years it’s something you don’t want to miss.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Thank you, Dean. You are right. We urge everybody to do it. There is going to be limited seating and, I tell you, the reservations are coming in fast. That’s a good point. Make those reservations early. It’s every two years.

DEAN BECKER: One more time – that website.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: http://www.medicalcannaibs.com


DOUG McVAY: Consequences. Erica Dinerman is Project Manager for Natick Together for Youth, a substance abuse prevention project of Natick, Massachusetts public schools. The Metro-West Daily News on March 15t h published a letter from her office urging voters to oppose a medical marijuana legalization initiative which has not yet made it to the November 2012 general election ballot.

Ms. Dinerman began her letter by noting that her program was the recipient of a new Drug-Free Communities grant of $625,000 over a five year period. That’s $125,000 of our tax dollars each year for the next five years.

Ms. Dinerman made clear that the focus of those tax dollars in the first year was opposing a medical marijuana initiative in Massachusetts.

According to ONDCP, state and local agencies like Natick public schools and their officers and employees like Ms. Dinerman must abide by the same Hatch Act restrictions against political involvement in which federal employees must obey.

Unfortunately the Hatch Act does not restrict involvement in initiative and referendum campaigns. In fact they are specifically exempted.

So what’s legal?

The Hatch Act concern is merely a technicality however. Let’s get to the real meat of the story.

According to ONDCP Drug-Free Community Grants are for the purpose of preventing youth substance use. On her website Mr. Dinerman has asserts that medical marijuana laws mean increased youth use. It’s not true though young people and adults are more likely to admit using marijuana once penalties are reduced because they feel less afraid of admitting the truth.

But nuances seem lost on Ms. Dinerman. To Ms. Dinerman concerns like alcohol, tobacco, inhalants and prescription drugs, the youth drug use concerns which most schools face, seem to pale in significance compared to the adult use of medical marijuana by physician-authorized patients.

Is this what the parents in the Natick public school system consider their biggest threat? It’s certainly not what real prevention professionals would call affective use of very limited federal funds.

Some people might even call it sleazy and unethical.

At the end of the day the ones who will suffer the most are the students in Natick public school system. Ms. Dinerman does seem to be concerned with consequences. She used the word 4 times in her 290 word letter.

One can only hope Ms. Dinerman will learn the consequences for misusing limited federal resources in this way. If not in real court than at least in the court of public opinion.

For the Drug Truth Network this is Doug McVay, Common Sense for Drug Policy.


DEAN BECKER: It’s amazing the amount of information that’s available out there about this drug war. It is my hope that you will educate yourself, embolden yourself and contact your local politicians to encourage them to do their part to end this madness. It is up to you to change their mind.

And, as always, I remind you because of prohibition – you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.


DEAN BECKER: To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

Drug Truth Network archives are stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org
Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.