06/26/19 Ray Lakeman

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Ray Lakeman

Ray Lakeman a British citizen lost his two boys to drug overdose and now wants to legalize all drugs. Reverend Alexander Sharp tours Canadian Safe Injection Facilities and seeks to save young lives.

Audio file


JUNE 26, 2019


DEAN BECKER: I am the Reverend Dean Becker, keeper of the moral high ground in the drug war for the world, and this is Cultural Baggage.

Hello, my friends, this is Cultural Baggage and I am Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High. We've got a show for you today that if it doesn't touch your heart, well, just go straight to hell.

Well, friends, you know, I work daily trying to educate and embolden you, dear listeners, to learn the truth about the drug war, to develop the courage to speak of what you know to be true, to end the madness, the overdose deaths, the funding of terrorists, cartels, and gangs.

And that's not an issue that applies just to these United States. Our show goes out to Canada as well, not yet to Great Britain as well as I know, but there's gentleman in Great Britain who dared to speak up, to share the truth, despite some horrible circumstances, and he's with us now. I want to welcome Mister Ray Lakeman. Hello, Ray.

RAY LAKEMAN: Hello there. Thanks, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Ray, you have, I don't know, been pilloried a bit. You've been -- had a few folks try to tell you to back down from your position taken. Let's talk about your position and why you have taken it.

You don't think we should have all these drugs illegal, do you, sir?

RAY LAKEMAN: Certainly not, no. I would much prefer that people didn't take drugs, but as it is, you know, part of the culture, people are doing, you can't stop it happening.

DEAN BECKER: I want to preface your response with this thought. I have three sons and a stepson. One of them, the stepson, is currently in jail awaiting a prison sentence for being involved in the drug trade.

I have a grandson who is in prison, basically for just being a drunk and an obnoxious little kid. But, there are lots of horrible consequences. Let's tell about what happened to you and your family, please.

RAY LAKEMAN: Well, my two sons, my two boys, Jaques and Torin, they were very, very --- very, very close, ever since the time they were born and everything. I don't think that we've ever seen a picture where they're not both involved. They were really bright, intelligent, musical, gifted, all kinds of things.

One of them ended up going to university, the other one actually went off to London, and they got together to watch a soccer match, and it turned out that one of them bought some MDMA powder. They took this powder together, and they were both found dead, lying next to each other, you know, at four in the morning.

DEAN BECKER: I -- my heart goes out to you, Ray, and, sadly, yours is not an uncommon story. It is happening more and more as time goes by, we have, in the US, in 2017, 72,000, mostly young kids, died from overdoses [sic: 70,237 died in 2017, according to the CDC, "Adults aged 25–34, 35–44, and 45–54 had higher rates of drug overdose deaths in 2017 than those aged 15–24, 55–64, and 65 and over."]

And we hear people talking about the opium problem, and the drug problem, and trying to ratchet up their efforts and trying to find new ways to supposedly control these supposedly controlled substances.

But it's failing, in every aspect, is it not, Ray?

RAY LAKEMAN: Well, had, I'm mostly convinced that, you know, if these laws were working, if they were, we wouldn't be having all these deaths. If the actual, you know, if you could actually prevent it by, you know, education, stopping the supply, arresting the dealers, saying no, imprisoning people, is a deterrent, we would have stopped ages ago.

But in fact we're not in that -- that's not the real world. It doesn't, it hasn't changed anything, it doesn't work, so we have to look at different -- we have to have a different approach. And much as we may not like it, you know, or condone it, the best thing that we can do is, I think, is legalize these things, regulate them, so that if people choose to take these things, they can do it as safely as possible.

I'd much, much prefer it if, you know, they didn't take it, if they must do it, it's the only aspect of the world that I can actually think of that, you know, we just kind of say don't do it, we don't try to make it safe as possible.

DEAN BECKER: Well, well said, Ray. Again, we're speaking with Mister Ray Lakeman, he lost his two sons, Jaques and Torin. How long ago was that, Ray?

RAY LAKEMAN: Both died on the First of December, 2014.

DEAN BECKER: So not that long ago at all, and, I'm sure it --


DEAN BECKER: -- still hurts. Well, let me kind of delve into what I consider the answer, the answer is to let Merck or Pfizer, one of the big drug companies, to make these products, to label them, to put instructions and directions and warnings and phone numbers and all the information possible on the containers so that those taking them would have a much better chance of taking a proper dosage, knowing how to handle it, and what to do in case there's trouble.

Would you agree with that thought, Ray?

RAY LAKEMAN: Yeah. I think one of the most astonishing things that came out of the inquest, when they looked into my boys' deaths was they actually mentioned, you know, the pathologist, the coroner, the police, everybody involved with it, mentioned a recreational dose.

That meant that they knew, they understood, and it was accepted that there was a dosage that would have given them the high that they were obviously looking for that would have kept them safe.

You know, because these are illegal drugs, we don't get that. My boys bought the stuff on the dark web, you know, but you don't get this information, they didn't know exactly what it was that they were buying and what they were taking. I'd much rather they had, you know, obviously, that they didn't take anything at all, but if you are going to take this, it's obviously got to be preferable that it's labeled and it says exactly, we know what to do.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir. You know, last year I was privileged, I went to Portugal, I met with Doctor João Goulão, their drug czar, and we had a great talk. They have decriminalized, which is a good step. It's not the complete necessary step, in my opinion, but they have diminished their number of overdose deaths significantly.

They just don't have the mad frenzy that we have in these United States, where, gosh, heroin isn't even heroin anymore, it's fentanyl, it's carfentanyl, it's an unknown product, as you're saying. I don't know how often you've heard my show but I close it with this thought, that because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

And that has been the heart, the crux of what I've been trying to bring forward or to motivate, or elevate, or however you want to say it, for these seventeen years.

And I, while in Europe, I then went to Switzerland. I met with Doctor Christoph Buerki, the designer of their heroin injection program, where they've injected 27 million times, pure heroin, with zero overdose deaths, because they, as you were indicating, they know what they're taking.

And, it's -- it just seems so foolish, so backward, so --

RAY LAKEMAN: We have -- we have a huge issue here, Dean, in fact, just before you called me, you know, the British government in particular are very hostile to consumption rooms.

And yet we've got one of the highest, you know, death rates in, certainly in Europe, for people overdosing and things like that. I know two people personally, two or three people, young lads, who have died from heroin overdose, and I'm quite sure that had we had consumption rooms, somewhere where they could have been supervised.

Again, I'm not advocating it, but I'm sure these boys would have been alive, and it's quite frightening that our government still, you know, turns a blind eye to the statistics, and, you know, and insists their policies are working. It's nonsense.

DEAN BECKER: It is nonsense, Ray, it is bull corn. I think of the circumstance, you know, that your sons wanted to be a little adventurous, wanted to have some fun and use this product that, you know, was purportedly safe enough to take.

And yet, it's -- most often these drugs these days are made, whether it's cocaine, made by, in a primitive lab in a, you know, Amazon jungle, and, you know, just, when they make these drugs, no one knows for certain what the end result is, but they know they may be able to make a profit and they just sell the stuff.

RAY LAKEMAN: Yes, that's exactly right. And that is what's happening here. The thing is, it won't go away. People are prepared to take a risk, and, you know, we have a problem as human beings, you know, we seem to, you know, we can't live on bread and water. We always want something that gives us a little bit more, you know, whether it's caffeine, chocolate, sugar, alcohol.

We -- there's something about the human body that, we're just not happy without all of these things. We have to accept these things, but we do need to make, you know, have to accept it, not condoning it, we have to turn around and say yes, make these things as safe as possible.

And we're just not doing it, and by not doing it, I think it's totally irresponsible for governments all over the world to turn around and say, right, we're going to ban it, and stop it. If you could do that, it would have already been done, and the thing would have been finished.

And unfortunately it's still ongoing. There are people dying every day who needn't die. And that is totally irresponsible.

DEAN BECKER: That is the heart of it, that dying needlessly, irresponsible is the correct word, Ray. I think we have beginnings, initial steps being taken, major media's starting to dabble in talking about it, I think the president of Mexico has indicated he wants to legalize drugs, and is hoping to find partners in that effort, they're encouraging the United States to join in, you know, taking a new focus on that possibility.

And, you know, meantime we're funding terrorists and barbarous cartels and gangs and causing shootouts on the city streets, again needlessly. These shootouts would not happen were it not for that black market profit motive. Correct, Ray?

RAY LAKEMAN: That's right. I mean, the, you know, there's so much violence in England, and most of it is gang related, drug wars and things like that. You know, it's escalating, you know, the number of deaths are going up year by year. The violence is escalating, you know, there's new drugs arriving on the scene that didn't exist before, you know, these psychoactive things.

The prohibition approach has just made things ten times worse than it was originally. We should be trying to help people. We should be treating -- I know one of the approaches in Portugal, particularly, is they should be treated as a health issue, rather than a criminal issue, if they're using drugs, and I think that is -- that is the way that we have to go, that we have to look at these things.

There's no point in locking people up and trying to arrest people. It's not even as though there's any support for them afterwards. It's a stupid approach.

DEAN BECKER: It is, no, but I would underscore your thought Ray with this, that in the United States, once you have that black mark on your record, you can't get credit, you can't get housing, you can't get an education, and many times you can't even get a job.

So it's -- the only place left hiring is the black market in drugs, and little wonder we have such recidivism. Ray, we're going to have to wrap it up here, but I want to tell you this, when we close here, I'm going to play a little bit of Positively Fourth Street, the Bob Dylan song, played by your sons Jaques and Torin, and a little segment to show they were -- they had talent, maybe on their way, but short circuited by this damned drug war. Your closing thoughts, Ray Lakeman.

RAY LAKEMAN: Thanks for that, in fact, the guy who's doing the singing on this song was one of the boys who took a heroin overdose and died, and now I'm quite sure that, yeah, he would have been with us, you know, had we had a consumption room.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, damn. Ray, thank you. I, this will be on my Wednesday show. I, you know about DrugTruth.net, it will be --

RAY LAKEMAN: Yeah, I'm following you all the time, Dean. Thanks very much.

DEAN BECKER: Well, thank you, and I'm near tears here, because I -- could have been me, could have been my boys.

RAY LAKEMAN: Yeah, exactly.

DEAN BECKER: Could be anybody's child.

RAY LAKEMAN: Anybody's child, that's right.

DEAN BECKER: Ray Lakeman, thank you, sir.

RAY LAKEMAN: Thank you. Thanks Dean, cheers.


[music: Positively Fourth Street]
You've got a lotta nerve to say you are my friend,
When I was down you just stood there grinnin'.
You've got a lotta nerve

DEAN BECKER: Thus far, three members of that band are dead because of prohibition.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects!

ALEX TREBEK: A 2009 study recommended treating heroin addicts with diacetyl morphine, the active ingredient in this?

DEAN BECKER: Time’s up! The answer from Jeopardy:


KAREN: What is heroin?


DEAN BECKER: Before the break, we heard the thoughts of Mister Ray Lakeman, a man who lost his two sons over there in Great Britain to, well, the failure of the drug war. And he talked about the need for safe injection sites, how that might have saved his sons and perhaps would have saved many others along the way.

Well, here to talk about that very subject is a gentleman who delves into this, who has investigated this drug war very extensively. He had an article published recently titled "Supervised Consumption Facilities: Canada 44, US Zero." And with that I want to welcome the Reverend Alexander Sharp. Hello, Al.


DEAN BECKER: Al, you got a chance to tour a facility up there in Toronto, correct?


DEAN BECKER: Please tell us about that situation. How does it work?

THE REVEREND ALEXANDER SHARP: Well, it's actually not just one facility that we saw on this most recent visit. We saw three. The 44 that you mentioned refers to the number of safe consumption sites, or facilities, or supervised is also a way of using it, supervised consumption facilities, in Canada.

The US still does not have any, and the concept is very simple. The concept is, every life's worth saving, and that where you have individuals who are using drugs in dangerous situations, often with infected needles, in streets and alleyways, they're in great danger.

And these facilities allow them to bring the drugs that they have into the setting, into the site, and to use those drugs under medical supervision. There's been no instance of death by overdose in any facility that we know about. In Canada, the first facility was in Toronto in 2003 -- in Vancouver in 2003. We know the data there, they still report no deaths from using drugs in those facilities.

And the concept is literally that simple. There's no judgment rendered, one meets the individual where he or she is, one offers a setting that is safe, and that frankly does often lead to treatment. I know at the facility in Vancouver there are treatment beds on the second, third, and fourth, and treatment in the ones that we saw in Toronto, also have the opportunity for treatment if one seeks it, but there's no quid pro quo. There's no requirement.

The idea is simply to meet people where they are, to respect them, give them a safe setting, treat them with dignity, and keep them alive.

DEAN BECKER: And, I had the privilege, I think it's been ten years ago, eleven years ago, I went to Vancouver, I was able to tour their Insite --


DEAN BECKER: -- injection facility. I found it to be just sparkling clean, well lit, inviting, and, you know, a means whereby these people could stay safe, and that's where we --


DEAN BECKER: -- we, I don't know, we talk in the US about being a Christian, a compassionate nation, and then we talk about these people, these druggies. We talk about them as being unworthy of respect and, you know, no one cares if they die, that they're better off dead, so to speak. And that's just not --


DEAN BECKER: -- not Christian at all, is it, sir?

THE REVEREND ALEXANDER SHARP: Well, when you think of what Jesus did, and with whom Jesus spent time, and indeed where he gave his greatest attention, it was to the poor and marginalized, and that's exactly what is happening here.

And I also had another -- and he didn't judge people. He gave love unconditionally. Indeed, that's what Jesus does as god's presence in this world. In fact, for the first time in Toronto, I didn't think of this after I'd come back from Vancouver, was, judge not lest ye be judged came to mind.

We judge ourselves when we judge other people, and reveal things about ourselves that aren't very attractive, and the harm reduction philosophy that you see in the safe consumption, or supervised consumption sites, is nonjudgmental. It does make treatment available if one seeks it, but doesn't judge those who are often in very dire straits, and may very well die if we don't provide this kind of safe setting.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Reverend Sharp, you know, we, by that I mean in the United States, we have some states that allow for needle exchange. They provide --


DEAN BECKER: -- they provide safe needles, they provide the little spoons and, you know, cleaning supplies, and other means to help prevent disease and other complications. I mean, we have the situations where now I think it's Starbucks is putting blue lights in their bathrooms so that people can no longer see well enough to do their injections, they can't see or feel their veins.

THE REVEREND ALEXANDER SHARP: Right now, in the absence of supervised consumption sites, librarians, restaurant, retail settings, are having a very difficult time because people in the absence of any safe, other safe facility, are going into literally into bathrooms, into restrooms, and using drugs.

And that now, it makes no sense, it puts a burden on these retail settings or service settings, which aren't equipped to handle it, and that's simply not the best that this country can do. I think it's shameful that we force people, if they're not going to stay in even more dangerous setting if they still have to resort to toilets in order to do what they're going to do.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. Now, it's my understanding that the city of Portland, the city of San Francisco, I believe Philadelphia, and a couple of other cities here in the US, the city elders are trying to make arrangements for safe injection facilities [sic: Portland's effort is still at the grassroots level. Seattle/King County has official backing.]

They are having to fight the state law as well as the federal law, but many of them are persevering and trying to move forward just the same. Your thought there please.

THE REVEREND ALEXANDER SHARP: The most vivid example of that I think is, maybe it's because I know most about it, is Philadelphia, where there -- there's deep and broad support for the supervised consumption site. There is one that is ready to open, right now, it's called Safeway [sic: SafeHouse].

The former governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, is helping to fund it, and the only reason -- and the city council supports it, the mayor supports it, the only reason it's not opening now is because the US attorney, at the behest of the Trump administration, has filed suit to keep it from opening, and the suit is being brought under the drug racketeering act, which has an entirely different purpose.

That's implying that the people that would open this facility are going to sell drugs and are part of a drug cartel, when in fact what they're doing is permitting drug use in order to keep people alive. It's an outrageous suit. Clergy for a New Drug Policy, the organization I head, is going to sign onto an amicus brief in support of those countering the federal action, hopefully so that the Safeway [sic: SafeHouse] can open in Philadelphia.

And you're correct, there are other cities that are close. As far as I know, there's only one underground facility that is really working. I don't know the name of it, the name is protected because they don't want to invite scrutiny. It will happen. There's no doubt that it will happen.

This all began with, since you mentioned the needle exchanges and using clean needles so that people aren't using needles with HIV infections on them, all started, harm reduction as a philosophy really started with that, as opposed to abstinence only.

And the story I like to tell is a minister in Nashville named Edwin Sanders, at an iconic church there, in the mid-'80s, started distributing clean needles in a parking lot near his church, and his parishioners were horrified, and they went to him and said, Reverend, how can you do that? And he said, I can't save souls if people are dead.

DEAN BECKER: There you go. So true, so profound. Once again, friends, we've been speaking with the Reverend Alexander Sharp. He is the executive director of Clergy for a New Drug Policy. Their website is DrugPolicy.org [sic: NewDrugPolicy.org].

And I know through the good works of folks like you and perhaps a little bit from me and many others who really give a darn, we will get it done. Your closing thoughts there, Reverend Sharp.

THE REVEREND ALEXANDER SHARP: My closing -- I think what people have to realize is that people in the throes of addiction change when they're ready to change. The argument you hear so often against these facilities, and even the use of clean needles for dirty needles, is that we're just enabling drug use.

That's not the relevant point. People who finally do, if they do overcome their addiction, don't do it because we stopped them from using drugs, which will often leave them in very dangerous circumstances. They change when they are ready to change, and our job is to support them, reduce the harm of their drug use until they are ready to change.

It's not to say, unless you do exactly what we think you should and punish you if you don't do what we think you should, you're simply not worth caring about. And so my closing message is, help people who are struggling, recognize that no one wants to be an addict. No one's happy that they're an addict. Punishment is not going to keep them from being an addict.

Our job is with care and compassion to support them, provide them with the dignity, and show them that we're there when they're ready to change.

DEAN BECKER: All right folks, wrapping it up here, and I normally don't like to make this a personal radio program but today I'm asking you to say some prayers, to send some positive thoughts, to my girlfriend, Pam Graham, who's now in the intensive care unit, with a smidgen of hope, and I'd love to have your support.

And again I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please, be careful.

Pulling the plug on the prison industrial complex. DrugTruth.net.