06/12/19 Vivian McPeak

Century of Lies
Vivian McPeak
Seattle Hempfest

This week we talk with Seattle Hempfest Executive Director Vivian McPeak about a lawsuit they've filed against the state over onerous restrictions on cannabis businesses, and we talk with Julie Bobitt,PhD, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne about her research on cannabis use by older adults.

Audio file



JUNE 12, 2019

DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

Hello, and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Well, I came across a couple of really interesting articles this week, looking at cannabis use by older adults, and by older adults, wow, they even mean people like me. But anyway, I digress, came across a couple of interesting articles about cannabis use by older adults, so I got in touch with one of the authors.

Doctor Julie Bobitt is Director of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences at the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We're going to talk to Doctor Bobitt in just a moment. But first ....

VIVIAN MCPEAK: My name is Vivian McPeak, I'm the executive director of the world's largest annual cannabis policy reform event, the Seattle Hempfest.

DOUG MCVAY: August every year, the third weekend in August is Hempfest. This year it's 16, 17, and 18?

VIVIAN MCPEAK: That's correct.

DOUG MCVAY: Vivian, you just had -- Seattle Hempfest just filed a lawsuit. What is going on up there?

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Well, Doug, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, the regulatory agency that oversees 502 licensees, or cannabis businesses in Washington state, recently made a new interpretation of a Washington Administrative [Code] ordinance, and interpreted this advertising restriction to basically say that a cannabis business can't have any sign or logo or name or presence or message at a public event like Seattle Hempfest.

And we believe that that is unconstitutional, that it's broad and vague and overreaching, and we have filed a lawsuit against the LCB in state court today. We will soon be moving for an injunction, arguing it in Thurston County.

DOUG MCVAY: Okeh, now, this is -- this would be, so, vendors, people with cannabis, various companies, would not be able to - could they, I mean, could they have the name of the business, even? How restrictive?

VIVIAN MCPEAK: No. Not under this new interpretation of the law. Recently there was a new WAC, Washington Administrative Code, it was an amended code by the state legislature, and, you know, Hempfest met with the LCB last year and said, look, you know, this is really vague. It says that these businesses can't do advertising, but they can do other forms of speech. What defines advertising?

And of course, you know, they argued amongst themselves for two hours in the room with us and said they'd get back to us, and it was months later that they finally got back to us with this kind of ambiguous language.

But, still on their website until last month, it said that cannabis businesses can have informational displays at events like Hempfest. It named us. And then last month, they took that language off of their website and instead replaced it with this incredibly restrictive stuff saying that they can't even have a presence.

In other words, they can't have their name, their logo, their address, any sign of any kind. And, as you know, public parks and public spaces are the modern equivalent of a town square, and that's why they deserve the highest degree of protection, and as a free speech event, nothing's more important to us than political speech.

And what this interpretation does is it prevents these 502 licensees from for example having a sign that says "We Support Seattle Hempfest," or "This is the difference between CBD and THC," or "We Support The Ending Of Cannabis As Schedule One And The Legalization Of Cannabis Federally."

They're restricted from saying anything like that. And we think that that's just clearly a violation of free speech under the Constitution of the United States.

DOUG MCVAY: Okeh, now, these -- the sign restriction is because Hempfest is in a park, is that the case, or what? I mean, they can have -- ?

VIVIAN MCPEAK: These restrictions prevent any sign or other advertisement for a cannabis business within one thousand feet of school playground, library, or public park. And if you know anything about a municipality, that's pretty much everywhere.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, especially depending on how they define a public park, I mean, in some cases, I've seen, you know, arguments about like a bike path, and you have things like that cutting through the middle of town.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Yeah. Exactly. And, you know, let's just mention too that this is a blow right to the heart of Hempfest's revenue generation, you know, it's one of our primary sources of revenue. I mean, who's going to advertise at Hempfest? Well, cannabis businesses, you know. Who's going to sponsor Hempfest? A cannabis business. Who's going to have a vending booth? Some kind of cannabis business.

So, there's very broad implications here, and we just feel this is a pretty clear cut case. And we've got to fight the power, man.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, obviously so, obviously so, I mean, this is -- I'm just looking at this, what is it, RCW 69.50.369, you reference it in the story on the website there, about advertisements, rules, penalties, and, let's see, any sign, other than identifying the retail outlet ...

VIVIAN MCPEAK: You know, Doug, we spent 27 years here fighting prohibition, and these ad restrictions, to us, feel like Prohibition 2.0, and it's just one of a variety of aspects of Washington state law that we feel is contrary to common sense and to sane, reasonable cannabis laws.

You know, I mean, if you're a cannabis business you can't even display a pot leaf, you can't have a pot leaf on your window, or on your sign, or anything like that, and, like, I don't know what kind of threat to society, to the children, the image of a pot leaf poses.

But this is just one in a long series of, kind of, what we think of as reefer madness -- an extension of reefer madness into this supposed legal paradigm.

DOUG MCVAY: Yeah, no depiction of marijuana plants, marijuana products, et cetera. I -- totally aside, but earlier today I was -- my twitter feed had a mention, Riverside County Sheriff's Office down in California was doing a marijuana eradication raid. Legalization 2.0 -- yeah, sorry Prohibition 2.0.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Nice. Yeah, yeah. And I just want to point out that this is -- this is not about advertising, Doug, it's about restrictions on any signs and the fact that the legislation and the Liquor and Cannabis Board entirely bars certain speakers from identifying who they are, saying anything at all and distributing any literature at all.

The law and the board's interpretation is just really entirely over-broad, and restricts all meaningful speech, you know, not just advertising, but even political speech, informational dissemination, what have you.

DOUG MCVAY: You could see the argument made for things like, I mean I disagree with the idea of, you know, whether there are samples or not. Okeh, you can make -- okeh, that's debatable whether that's appropriate or not, I mean, I think you should, but --

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Sure, at least there's an argument, you know, whether we agree with it or not, there's an argument that could be made. But this is really silly, and since the days of James Madison, and the broadsides in public square, public space has been a central bastion of freedom of speech, especially political speech, and we think that the good people at the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board got it wrong on this one, and we're going to mount a vigorous defense against it.

DOUG MCVAY: Okeh, and again, that's in state court there, so where -- when and where is this, are you going to be -- are you in court tomorrow, did you say?

VIVIAN MCPEAK: No, no, I'm, you know, I'm not the attorney, I'm the activist guy. But I know that we'll be moving for an injunction against the LCB, because what they did is, they sent a letter to all the cannabis businesses that, like, the cultivators, the processors, the packagers, the retailers, and, you know, warning them against participating in Seattle Hempfest.

You can imagine what happened then. Our phones started ringing off the hook, and we're just a couple of months before the event right now. I mean, we would much rather be putting all of our energy into pulling this event together and producing another safe educational -- our twenty-eighth annual safe and educational Hempfest.

Instead, we're having to deal with this stuff. And it's not the only thing we're dealing with. We're also appealing an adverse decision of the city hearing examiner here in Seattle over one thousand dollar operating a marijuana business without a licence ticket that we got, over some of the same issues that are in the lawsuit, for a private party at a private house that we had as part of our membership program.

The city came in undercover and then issued us this citation, saying that because we were letting people smoke their own cannabis in the back yard of this house, we were operating a marijuana business without a license.

So we just feel like we're under attack on multiple fronts right now.

DOUG MCVAY: Vivian, I wish you the best of luck, I mean, this is just an outrage, what's being -- what's happening is just an outrage, it's ridiculous, there's -- it's obviously a concerted attack on Hempfest.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Yeah, and at the same time, the city also, the FAS, Financial Administrative Services, is telling us that the signs that we had at the entrances at Hempfest, asking for a suggested ten dollar donation, constitute an admission fee.

And we said, well that's intriguing, because very few people give us anything. Everybody knows it's a free event.

So, we're just feeling like, you know, they're out to get us, and we're out to beat them. You know, it's always a struggle, but this is a little bit unusual.

DOUG MCVAY: Oh indeed. So, tell folks how they can -- tell folks your social media, but most importantly, where can people find out -- keep up with what's going on, where can people donate to Hempfest?

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Absolutely. I appreciate that. We've got a great show lining up, you know, with some great speakers and some great acts. It's going to be the usual, you know, more freedom than you find in Amsterdam down at Myrtle Edwards and Centennial Park.

People can go to Hempfest.org at any time, they can check out our Facebook or our Twitter accounts as well, look for @SeattleHempfest. At Hempfest.org there is a donation page, and people can make a contribution electronically right there, and we are probably actually going to be doing a GoFundMe, try and help raise some of the money for our attorneys and our legal fund.

People can always just come to Seattle Hempfest and drop something in the donation bins as they come in and out, because, and I'll say it, we request a ten dollar suggested donation for three days of three stages of music, premier arts, crafts, and informational vendors, and all the great, amazing speakers and vendors that we have, about three hundred vendors.

DOUG MCVAY: It's always a great show, and full disclosure: I'm volunteering on the speakers committee this year, so ...

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Nice. Nice. That's how you do it.

DOUG MCVAY: Yeah. You've got -- what is it, like a thousand people who volunteer every year? It's amazing.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Yep. Yep, we'll fill about a thousand staff shirts, and we'll have a hundred thousand people attending the event. And you know, cannabis is still federally illegal. I mean, you walk into Idaho, right across the Washington border here, and find out that a doob tube is against the law there. They don't even recognize CBD as legal in Idaho.

And, you know, our esteemed attorney general, national Attorney General William Barr, he could, you know, sign a piece of paper and in two months every pot shop in America would be shut down. So we haven't won. We have a long ways to go, a lot of heavy lifting to do.

So it's more important than ever to have a Seattle Hempfest, and to thank people like, you know, Jimmy Romans, who's got a lifetime sentence for cannabis and has -- still has thirty years to serve, of his commuted sentence. So it's important as ever.

DOUG MCVAY: Right on. Truer words. All right, Vivian McPeak, director of Seattle Hempfest. Vivian, you're doing god's work, thank you, brother, for all you do, man. Thank you.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Love you so much, Doug, I look forward to seeing you, bro.

DOUG MCVAY: Love you, Viv.



That was my interview with Vivian McPeak, executive director of Seattle Hempfest. Seattle Hempfest is of course August 16, 17, and 18 this year. I look forward to seeing everyone there. It will be an incredible event, as ever. Hopefully we can overcome some of these restrictions that the state decided to impose.

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

NGAIO BEALUM: Make more noise here! Who here likes marijuana?! Let’s hear it for weed! How about pot? Who likes pot?! Who likes grass?! What about trees? How about fire? How about cannabis?!

I’m just going to do that for a few minutes, just going to go through synonyms for weed. You can make up words for weed as long as you use the verb twist or roll, everybody knows what you’re talking about. Hey, man, twist up a stiff-diffler. All right, dawg, one fat stiffie coming up. Where do you keep your stiff dankaciousness at?

I love marijuana. I go hard for weed, I’m from California, we're going to legalize in 2016, right after Oregon does it this year. If you live somewhere, go hard for weed. Go hard, I go door to door in my neighborhood like a Weed-hovas Witness. I have some good news about weed. Can I share it with you?

Good morning. I would like to talk to you about my personal relationship with marijuana. Do you have a few moments? Hi, have you accepted weed in your life? I have some papers here somewhere.

DOUG MCVAY: Julie Bobitt, PhD, is the Director of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences at the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She's co-author on a couple of articles that have come out recently that are of great interest.

One of them, "Patterns of Marijuana Use and Health Impact: A Survey Among Older Coloradans" was published recently in the journal Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine. The other, published in the journal Drugs and Aging, is entitled "Qualitative Analysis of Cannabis Use Among Older Adults in Colorado."

I talked to Doctor Bobitt on the phone. Here's that interview.

JULIE BOBITT, PHD: My name is Julie Bobitt, I'm the Director of the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Program in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. And my research, really, I evaluate programs and policies that impact the health of older adults.

DOUG MCVAY: What led you to do research on cannabis use by older adults?

JULIE BOBITT, PHD: Well, in 2015-2016, I was a Health and Aging Policy Fellow and I was placed at the Office of the Surgeon General at the time when they were rolling out the Turn The Tide Campaign. That was a campaign to address the opioid epidemic in the United States.

And during that time, there were two committee hearings on the Hill that addressed opioids, and cannabis was brought up in the as a potential alternative. So that was just kind of the first spark. And then during that same time period, states that had legalized cannabis were seeing an increase in use by the older adult population.

So, my colleagues and I started discussing this, and we were wondering was this because, you know, were Baby Boomers who were already using just aging into this group? Was this the result of legalization of marijuana, more policies that were taking place across the states?

Or could this be tied to older adults experiencing more chronic conditions as they age? And could they be looking for alternative means of treating those conditions?

So we thought it was important to explore older adults' attitudes about, and experiences with, cannabis. And for those who were using, how they were accessing cannabis and the outcomes they were experiencing.

DOUG MCVAY: So, Baby Boomers. It's -- older adults. I'm a Baby Boomer. And I guess I am an older -- well, I'm older. We'll just leave it at that. So, tell me what have you found? Tell me your findings.

JULIE BOBITT, PHD: Sure. So, we have two articles that are out. One of them, "THe Patterns of Marijuana Use and Health Impact," that was our survey that we looked at of older Coloradans. And of the older adults in our study who were using marijuana, the majority were reporting using for medical purposes, such as for treating pain related conditions as well as for anxiety and depression.

And they were also using a variety of methods other than smoking, such as edibles and creams and tinctures. We also found that those who had used marijuana in the past year had reported that their overall health and quality of life improved, and they were reporting improvement in things like their day to day functioning and with controlling their pain.

And finally, one other thing in this article that we found, that older adults were reporting using for a variety of medical reasons, but they weren't always accessing cannabis from medical dispensaries. They were using both medical and recreational dispensaries.

DOUG MCVAY: Right on. And now, you've done a couple of articles, doing the -- you've got the patterns of medical and social cannabis use, and you've also got the new one out in the journal Drugs and Aging, it's, what is it, "Qualitative Analysis of Cannabis Use Among Older Adults in Colorado." Tell me about those findings.

JULIE BOBITT, PHD: So, while the first article was about survey data that we collected, the second article was based on data we collected through focus groups across Colorado.

So, my colleagues were out across the state of Colorado talking to groups of older adults, and we found that participants were interested in education about how cannabis can be used for medical purposes. And they brought physicians and community resources such as universities, libraries, and senior centers that would be good places to offer such education.

We also investigated the issue of how they were accessing cannabis, through recreational versus medical dispensaries.

We found that older adults sometimes experience difficulties accessing medical cannabis, and for our participants who were using cannabis, because we talked to people who were both users and non-users, the ones who were using cannabis were doing so largely to treat pain related conditions, which was also reported in our previous paper.

But with our focus groups we're able dig a little deeper on this, and we found that many of the individuals using cannabis were using cannabis in place of or to reduce their reliance on stronger pain relievers, such as opioids. And even our non-users were favorable to using cannabis if they were to acquire a condition in the future, especially if it meant that they might not have to use some of the stronger medications that are out there.

DOUG MCVAY: Interesting, and of course that's -- that goes right along with some of the, with a lot of other research that's been coming out about substitution of cannabis for the opioids. I want to go back though for a moment. You mentioned that some older adults were having difficulty accessing medical cannabis. Now, that's -- I mean, Colorado has medical cannabis, it has a legal adult use market. Why were they having problems with access?

JULIE BOBITT, PHD: Yeah, well, that was interesting for us. So, for the older adults that we spoke with, some were having trouble finding a physician that could certify them for the red card that's required for medical dispensary access.

Also, many reported that they were reluctant to bring it up their physician, that they had brought it up but their physician didn't feel knowledgeable about cannabis use and, you know, talking to them about it, and so, and some didn't really even support its use due to a lack of research.

So of course, you know, as you mentioned, in Colorado they have the option to go through the recreational dispensary. So when we first saw the data from our surveys, we just thought, well, you know, maybe older adults just prefer to go that route, maybe because it's easier, it's available to them.

But, through our conversations in the focus groups, we really were able to determine that many of the older adults we spoke with wanted to access it through a medical dispensary, and they wanted that direction from their healthcare provider, but just weren't always able to do so, for some of the reasons I stated.

DOUG MCVAY: - Now, in your article you also mentioned that older adults are also experiencing stigma related to cannabis use. Could you talk about that a bit, the kind forms it takes, and how it's impacting their lives and their healthcare?

JULIE BOBITT, PHD: Yes. Many of the discussions that took place in our focus groups including stories where the participant was afraid to admit their cannabis use to their own family members, their physicians, their friends. Even if you were using strictly for medical purposes, the reasons varied, but some that come to mind include being worried about what their physicians might say, or about others' negative opinions about cannabis use.

So, a lot of them kept it pretty quiet. They were afraid to be labeled a quote "pot head," is what some of them said, or felt that movies such as, you know, back when Reefer Madness came out, had caused an overall fear of cannabis use that's still with us today, even though it's legal in their state.

It was interesting, because many of the participants stressed that as an older adult they weren't interested in using cannabis to quote "party," but really had medical issues that they felt would be addressed by using cannabis. But even though they held these attitudes personally, they were still fearful of what others thought about it.

And I think, you know, as to how this could have an impact on them, this really could have a big impact on their healthcare because not disclosing their cannabis use could have medical implications if they're using other medications. So in general, having open communication with their own healthcare providers is certainly better for their health outcomes.

There wasn't a lot of discussion about how they coped with the stigma, but, the topic circles back to the need to really educate the public and the healthcare community about cannabis use for medical purposes.

DOUG MCVAY: This may be a bit off, and it's just a -- it's a thing I think about sometimes, but I know that some people have trouble identifying as a patient. I mean, no one wants to think that they're a patient, the older adults you were speaking to, I presume, were active consumers of healthcare.

Did any of them have trouble wrapping their heads around the idea of being a patient?

JULIE BOBITT, PHD: That didn't come up in our focus groups. It was really more about just feeling that there was an overall lack of education and information, not just for them as consumers, but also for health providers.

Even if they were able, or even if they felt like they could bring it up, there just wasn't a lot that they were provided back, as far as education.

And it could be around things such as dosage, the types of cannabis methods that they could use such as, you know, the ones that I mentioned above, you know, edibles or creams or tinctures. There isn't a lot of information available to them.

DOUG MCVAY: - Right on, right on. Again, folks, we're speaking with Julie Bobitt, PhD, Director of the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences [Program] at the College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana.

Julie, do you have any closing thoughts for my listeners, and also is there a website or social media where people can keep up with the work that you're doing?

JULIE BOBITT, PHD: Sure. Closing thoughts, I would say, you know, as with any research, our results need to be taken with caution because this is one study on older adults in one state, but it really provides us some insight into how older adults perceive cannabis, and shows the need for more education of users and the healthcare community as well.

Older adults are using cannabis, and whether this is something that people agree with, it shows the need for more open communication about this topic so that they're doing so in a way which can minimize any potential negative effects.

And I think it also provides us a first glimpse as to what is happening in relation to opioids. This is really an area where more research needs to be conducted.

And certainly people can keep up with the work we are doing. At the University of Illinois, I have an Aging and Health Policy Lab website where I include updates about our research, and that website is AHP.AHS.Illinois.edu.

And also my colleagues at the University of Iowa have a Cannabis and Older Persons Study website, which is COPStudy.Lab.UIowa.edu.

DOUG MCVAY: Brilliant. I'm from Iowa, by the way. Don't hold it against me. Anyway, Doctor Bobitt, I thank you so much for your time, and for your work. It's fascinating. I'll continue to check it out.

JULIE BOBITT, PHD: Well, thank you for inviting me to talk about our work.

DOUG MCVAY: That was my interview with Doctor Julie Bobitt. She's Director of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences [Program] at the College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

She's co-author of articles entitled "Patterns of Marijuana Use and Health Impact: A Survey Among Older Coloradans," published recently in the journal Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, and "Qualitative Analysis of Cannabis Use Among Older Adults in Colorado," published recently in the journal Drugs and Aging.

NGAIO BEALUM: So, marijuana's legal in Nevada now, right? And I heard a story about this guy who won a lot of money, won like a hundred thousand dollars, and this stoner came up to him and said, hey man, I know you won a hundred thousand dollars. I normally wouldn't ask this, but my girlfriend's very sick, I need ten thousand dollars so she can have an operation.

And the gambler says, well how do I know if I give you this ten thousand dollars, you're not just going to buy some marijuana? And the stoner goes, man, I have weed money.

DOUG MCVAY: And that's it for this week. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs, including this show, Century of Lies, as well as the flagship show of the Drug Truth Network, Cultural Baggage, and of course our daily 420 Drug War News segments, are all available by podcast. The URLs to subscribe are on the network home page at DrugTruth.net.

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We'll be back in a week with thirty more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.