03/03/13 Neill Franklin

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

From Wash DC: Neill Franklin, Dir of LEAP, Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, Jeff Jones, Doug McVay and Terry Nelson of LEAP

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / March 3, 2013


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. This week we have reports from Washington, D.C. where we attended the National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference of 2013.

We begin with my boss.


NEILL FRANKLIN: I’m Neill Franklin, the executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a non-profit organization of current and former crime fighters – police officers, judges, criminal prosecutors, corrections officials, prison wardens and federal agents – who after working decades on the front lines of the War on Drugs have come to realize that these policies of prohibition are not just failed policies but actually counterproductive to public safety.

DEAN BECKER: We’re here at this gathering of cannabis experts talking about the positive benefits, the lack of too many negative ramifications and we, in LEAP, have stood for years in step with these people because we’ve seen not just the benefit of marijuana but the horrible blowback of the policy of prohibition. Speak to that if you will. It’s a multi-faceted drug war. It has many entanglements but at the heart of it – the prohibition itself – is counterproductive.

NEILL FRANKLIN: I want to talk about a couple of things. The prohibition of marijuana and what it does to our communities, to our states, to our country, globally to Central America and other places. The prohibition because basically what we’ve done, similar to alcohol prohibition, is we’ve taken a commodity and made it extremely valuable and it’s being peddled at the hands of criminals – organized crime, cartels, neighborhood gangs. These proceeds they use not just to survive off of but to wreak havoc within our communities. Our communities have become extremely violent as these gangs compete with each other for market share, for corners basically. Guns have become the tools of the trade. Guns that were initially used just to manage the business of illegal drug trafficking are now used to settle just about any dispute – even a simple dispute of disrespect. It’s how they handle business today in general.

It’s become very costly for us financially as a country. It’s become very costly for our police departments and where they focus their energies and their time. That equates to less resources being used for violent crime - for rape, for domestic violence, murder, burglaries, robberies.

If we were to just legalize marijuana alone the limited resources that we could then redirect to violent crime are significant. It would make a huge difference in the communities – especially our impoverished communities.

So that’s a little bit about prohibition but I want to also talk about the legalization of recreational use and medical marijuana. Some people see them as one in the same but they’re not. They’re distinctly different.

Medical marijuana has its own unique place. The research…the importance of research so that the different strains of marijuana of which I’m beginning to learn a lot about the benefits of medicinal marijuana and how it is used to improve the quality of life for people who have different ailments. I’m learning about the cannabinoid system and how that works.

The medical marijuana industry and the research that needs to be done in its own special unique place and the different strains depending on what the ailment is. All of that is important.

The recreational use of marijuana is completely different. That’s similar to the alcohol industry where people drink and consume alcohol for enjoyment purposes. That’s the recreational side. Along with that comes regulations and control. Age limits – how do we keep marijuana away from our children. We would do it similar to how we do it with alcohol and tobacco.

Under our model of prohibition where we currently are there’s more access. Drug dealers are on just about every corner. If they’re not on the corner they’re around the corner. They don’t just sell to kids because they don’t ask for ID but they also recruit kids to sell to other kids. That means we have more marijuana, more drugs available to our kids. It’s so easy for them to access it today. We all know that it’s much easier for them to access marijuana than to get cigarettes.

Under a model of regulation and control we move it from the street corners into a licensed establishment where there are quality control measures, where they card people – they want to know if you’re 21 or not. They don’t higher kids to peddle their products.

DEAN BECKER: The other night the Discovery channel premiered a new show, “Weed Country”. They showed some legitimate patients and, I think, embraced the idea of medical marijuana but they also included a couple of sheriffs who spoke. The quote I remember from one is, “If I can stop just one kid from using marijuana I’d feel my career is a success.”

Respond to that.

NEILL FRANKLIN: I’ll tell you what. If we end these policies of prohibition and move it into regulation and control it’ll stop thousands from accessing marijuana. He ought to think about that.

Under our current policies he’s just spinning his wheels as we’ve done for the past 4 decades. Now if we move into regulation and control where we keep it away from every kid would we keep it away from every kid? No way - absolutely not. But you now what? We’ll limit access for thousands who are currently getting it.

We’re well overdue for ending this disastrous policy of drug prohibition. Not just overdue by a year or two or three but by a few decades. It doesn’t work. It never worked. It never will work and now it’s time to move into an area of regulation and control.

Let’s do right by our children. Let’s do the best that we can eliminating access. Teach them, educate them, treat them when needed and make sure we have the resources available to do so.

I encourage you to go to our website, http://leap.cc or http://copssaylegalizedrugs.com. check out our videos. Thank you.


SUNIL AGGARWAL: My name is Sunil Aggarwal. I’m a resident physician at New York University School of Medicine and Physical Rehabilitation. I’m also a PHD in the field of medical geography. I did that in Washington State. I studied medical marijuana patients and systems of access and delivery of cannabis medicines and also patient distress levels related to ongoing criminalization due to the federal government’s position on marijuana.

I published that work in a series of 6 articles. I’ve taken that research and other research to the American Medical Association and had them reconsider their position on the scheduling of marijuana in federal law. They have now changed their position to ask the government to review that position and move towards the development of cannabis-based medicines.

I’m here today at the Americans for Safe Access first National Unity Conference in Washington, D.C. I was a member of the scientific advisory committee that selected the speakers for this morning’s scientific talks. I also gave two of those talks myself.

DEAN BECKER: Tell us the advances, the understanding that is coming about, the new awaking, the realization of what’s going on.

SUNIL AGGARWAL: The understanding is essentially…this conference is about marijuana and marijuana is, first of all, its name is being changed back to its original name, its scientific name which is cannabis. But marijuana has become such a part of the American vernacular and it’s also the official name in the federal and state laws. If you will recognize I’m going to talk about cannabis because it’s the scientific term.

So recognizing that this is something with scientific and medical potential and that this is a plant that has a long history of use with a safe track record and more and more with most advanced research clinical methodologies they’re able to show that the plant-based drug has use utility in not just palliation of symptoms…this is something the public has been aware of for a few decades now because of these marijuana laws.

Pain, spasms, nausea, vomiting, appetite – these things are known but more research is helping us understand the safety of these medicines for long term use, the potential for these medicines to replace more dangerous or toxic pharmaceuticals to treat similar symptoms and also the increasingly the possibility that long term diseases can be slowed or modified such as Multiple Sclerosis or possible other types of neurodegenerative disorders by using cannabis. It’s not just for symptoms but also possibly to alter the diseases themselves.

That’s a new awareness. More and more the recognition that the legal classification is so archaic, so outdated that it continues to become a huge impediment to the type of studies and understanding of the medical use that needs to already be in place and the medical studies that need to be done to further advance human understanding.

Today in the conference we heard from a professor at Cal Tech University who was one of the fathers of the science called Superstring Theory which is a big advancement in the understanding of the universe. His name is Dr. Schwarz. Dr. Schwarz talked to us about a gentleman from the time of the witch hunts in the era called the Joseph Glanville.

He was somebody that essentially tried to marry science with the witch hunts to try to find that middle ground between there’s this idea that somebody thinks you’re a witch and should be tried and burned or locked away and this new science that was emerging with Newton and the scientific revolution. So he wanted to do a scientific approach to finding witches.

That’s kind of this middle ground he said is similar to what the federal agencies are trying to do now – keep their drug war, keep the idea of witch hunting and also sort of have that science spin.

Glanville’s ideas were never accepted apparently in 1735 – the year English Parliament outlawed witch hunting, just after this gentleman was introducing his ideas. We should recognize them in the same way.

There’s a clear and fundamental unambiguous notion that science should lead you to how you treat a human being that would be involved with one of these substances. If we know that there’s such a high level of safety and nontoxicity and all these potential benefits for its consumption whether it’s through medical channels or what not there’s no reason to criminalize that person in any way, shape or form whatsoever.

If there are problems related to their consumption that should be addressed - I agree with the Drug Czar – as a public health issue but not as a coercive idea that you’re already doing something morally reprehensible and we’re just kind of dealing with you from arm’s length. This idea that the drug user, the marijuana consumer is still something that needs to be cordoned off and sanitized is really still a “witch hunt” ideology and doesn’t have any basis in the science of the way the drug affects the brain, the human body and is more a vestige of the drug war mentality that, unfortunately, still persists.

The rhetoric is shifting. The Drug Czar has said that the Obama administration hasn’t done enough to put this idea of a public health approach out there. Part of that would be to recognize that there is enough overwhelming science that recognizes that marijuana does have a safety for use under medical supervision, does have a low potential for abuse. There is no reason for the Obama administration to continue to classify it as a high potential for abuse and no safety for use under medical supervision or otherwise.

That would be a nice place for them to put their actions in concordance with their views on this particular drug then other problems or issues could be dealt with on an equally reasonable manner. The problem is we don’t have scientists running the drug scheduling business. It’s more law enforcement types and federal bureaucrats and that needs to change.

DEAN BECKER: Once again that was Sunil Aggarwal who, by the way, since this conference has been hired by the National Institute of Health.


It’s time to play: "Name That Drug - By It’s Side Effects!"

Agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, face chomping, lip eating, brain slurping, ecstasy, suicide, zombieism….


Time’s up! The answer according to law enforcement from some crazy-ass chemist somewhere – methedrone, otherwise known as bath salts.


JEFF JONES: I’m Jeff Jones. I work with the Patient ID Center as the executive director. I’m also one of the professors and a chancellor with the Oaksterdam University which is housed inside of a property at 1373 Broadway in downtown Oakland. We also host the Oaksterdam teaching space and their museum which you can enter at 1734 Telegraph Ave.

We are both an educational and an advocacy organization to teach people about medical cannabis and about how to cultivate medical cannabis. The ID Center issues ID cards and helps patients instructed on where to buy and how to grow cannabis. The Oaksterdam University teaches people about the industry, good practice standards, about what to do in and out of collectives that are dispensing and cultivating and also about the politics, history and the legal issues involved with our industry.

DEAN BECKER: You’ve seen the growth of the medical cannabis industry from day 1, basically…

JEFF JONES: I wouldn’t say day 1 but I’ve been here for a long time. Dennis and Brownie Mary really laid the foundation level that I watched in the news and the media about her getting busted and Dennis pushing open the first door in San Francisco for cannabis collecting but things have changed tremendously in the last decade from being in the United States Supreme Court just a little over a decade ago with my 2001 decision saying there’s no defense for medical necessity dispensation to now saying plethora of dispensaries in Colorado, Arizona, here in Washington, D.C. start to open including New Jersey and other states thinking about where to go.

Not to mention what just happened in Colorado and Washington State. I have to feel that we’re in one of the brightest hours for cannabis reform that I’ve seen in my work period.

DEAN BECKER: What strikes me is the host of products ranging from salves to ice tea, from vaporizers to cookies. The point I’d like you to address is there are so many possibilities for commerce, for health, for positive change if we would just examine these laws and search for the truth of the matter.

JEFF JONES: I think the truth has slipped out underneath the canopy of the prohibition of cannabis in the last two years. We’re seeing for the first time in our history a hemp bill introduced in our U.S. Senate and co-sponsored by Republican leaders for pete’s sake. I’m just pinching myself knowing that we’re in a different era.

To see that it is being pitched as a way to help the family farmer when that’s what we’ve been saying for years. It’s as if finally as what we are backing is on the wall and they are reading it for what is taken for granted. It’s sort of like validated the work that we have been involved in. The truth that we have been spreading for decades amongst the coalition of folks that have worked on this issue. It seems to have finally garnered a gelling moment where everything is starting to come together.

I just hope that we don’t squander this opportunity – that we don’t miss this chance of changing things once and for all to bring this plant and the prosperous that it could bring both our economy and the ability for the U.S. to be a manufacturing country again.

We talk about things that we need to do here. I’m from the Midwest area, South Dakota, where there’s a bunch of water and free farm land to grow things like this. My state is one of the number one eradicators of hemp in its natural, renewable state in the country under DEA standards. I think that needs to be reversed and see South Dakota be one of the number one states to cultivate this plant and make it available to non-drug form for products to be processed and produced here in the U.S.

We are seeing one of the more interesting times in both the U.S. government and at local state levels related to cannabis policy. We’re seeing a plethora of states question whether or not they want to make adult consumers legal in their states for use, cultivation and for commercial ability. It has gone beyond the medical question that we’ve been touting for over a decade. The compassionate access for patients and the need for this medicine and I just hope that that isn’t lost as we move forward.

At the same time I feel it’s going to help them a lot more by gaining access in a full more economical standpoint and in a safer fashion. They’ve had targets on their back. Every patient that’s come out and talked about using medical cannabis in the last 15 years has been a target.

Now as we bring adult consumers into that place where they’re talking about their use patients are no longer targets and they’re going to be, hopefully, the spectacle of what we need to do to change our society to be better equipped to look after those who are hurt.


DOUG McVAY: Fact-checking the fact-checker.

ONDCP Rafael LeMaitre has been blogging again. A legalization supporter in the Rhode Island state legislature, arguing for marijuana reform, repeated an old line that she'd heard before about how it's easier for kids to obtain pot than alcohol. The folks at PolitiFact, the highly respected and widely read column which fact-checks statements by politicians and gives people the real scoop, decided to check that one out.

What they found, not surprisingly, is that she was incorrect, so they labeled the assertion false. That's a loaded word, some might prefer inaccurate or outdated, but they're right that she was wrong.

The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, or CASA, performs annual surveys of parent and teenager attitudes. They currently ask teens the question “Which do you think it would be easier for you to buy: Beer, cigarettes, or marijuana?” They started asking that question in 2010. Prior to that, they asked which would be easier to get. That word change is important.

Until 2010, the CASA survey found that teens ranked marijuana second, and beer third. Tobacco has always been the easiest of the three to obtain. The new 2010 question resulted in much different responses. It's not surprising, beer is easier to get than marijuana – if nothing else because it's easily available in so many American homes. Some parents even allow their kids to drink at home. Data on parental responsibility for access to alcohol aren't in the 2012 report. In the 2011 report on teen and parent attitudes, they do note this, quote:

“Compared to teens whose parent has not consumed alcohol in the last 30 days, teens whose parent has consumed alcohol in the last 30 days are more than twice as likely to say they can get alcohol in an hour or less (32 percent vs. 14 percent). ”

End quote.

At Drug War Facts dot org, the website I edit and maintain, we link to several CASA reports, including the most recent teen attitude survey, in our sections on Prevention and on Adolescent Drug Use. Download copies, they're well-done and quite informative.

So. PolitiFacts has it right. What about Rafael?

In his ONDCP blog post, Rafael called the assertion that marijuana was easier to get than beer “Implausible.” Really?

Well, here are the pertinent data:

In 2006, 21 percent say marijuana and 14 percent say beer is easier to buy. By 2007, it's only 19 percent marijuana and 17 percent beer. In 2008, 23 percent to 15 percent, and in 2009, it's 26 percent to 14 percent. In 2010, the question is changed to “easier to get”, and the numbers change: 15 percent marijuana versus 26 percent beer. In 2011, it's 22 percent marijuana and 23 percent beer, then in 2012 it's 19 percent marijuana and 24 percent beer. The margin of error in 2012, noted in appendix 1, is 3.1 percent.

So the original assertion, as PolitiFact noted, was incorrect, but it was also definitely plausible. On this one, the bureaucrat gets an F for his attempted misdirection. Rafael, you must do better.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for Drug Policy and Drug War Facts.


TERRY NELSON: This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. According to a recent article in the Global Post at Globalpost.com the Sinaloa Cartel has won the drug war.

The drug trade is not controlled nor regulated by government. It is controlled by the Cartel that is best able to defend his drug smuggling routes and strong enough to take other groups trade and trade routes from them.

The article pointed out that In a business as opaque as the drug trade, it’s hard to get reliable figures on the size of a crime group’s territory, the breadth of its wealth or the extent of its market share. Court documents, arrests and drug seizures, however, paint a picture of the Sinaloa cartel as a multinational, highly flexible organization, quick to adapt to new circumstances and showing resilience unlike any of its rivals.

Compared to its humble beginnings in the 1980s, when it controlled only a single Pacific trafficking route into Arizona, the cartel’s territorial expansion has been staggering. Key areas it now controls include most of Mexico’s Pacific coast states and parts of central Mexico.

Even more impressive is its global reach. Sinaloa operatives have been arrested from Egypt to Argentina and from Europe to Malaysia. Properties attributed to El Chapo Guzman have been seized in Europe and South America. US law enforcement reports that the group is now present in all major American cities. Recent US court documents involving the case of Vicente Zambada-Niebla, Mayo Zambada's son, even suggest the Sinaloa cartel now controls the cocaine trade in Australia.

“El Chapo has an apparent ability to [allegedly] corrupt and infiltrate elements of law enforcement on both sides of the border and seemingly play the authorities' every move to his advantage,” Beith says. “When the Mexican army moved into Juarez, so did El Chapo, seizing an opportunity. When the authorities took down the Arellano-Felix cartel, El Chapo was already poised to take Tijuana.”

All things considered, El Chapo Guzman and his Sinaloa cartel seem to have been profiting rather than suffering from the drug war, Javier Valdez argues. “The drug war has helped them stay on top. While they continue to keep the heat away from their home turf, their rivals have been weakened.”

Again, our government tells us that we are winning the drug war and even want to change what they call it. The drug czar said publically that we will not arrest our way out of this mess but he is required by law to continue the failed policy.

The positive signs are that most of the world is beginning to reject the drug war...it’s not just Colorado and Washington or the 18 States and the District of Colombia that have legal Medical Marijuana.

The failed public policy of the drug war may well be coming to an end but we must continue to work to make this change. The end of Prohibition will help millions of people regain control of their lives.

This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, www.leap.cc, signing off. Stay safe.


DEAN BECKER: Through a Freedom of Information Act request we recently acquired some audio footage that was recorded by the FBI of Chapo Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa cartel. I was surprised that he speaks such great English.

“I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists”

DEAN BECKER: Obviously that was not Chapo Guzman but a great line from the movie “Blazing Saddles” and other than mentioning the need for corrupt cops it’s a pretty good list of those who work for Chapo Guzman.

I want to thank you for being with us on this week’s edition of Cultural Baggage. As always I remind you that 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.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org