07/03/19 Vivian McPeak

Century of Lies
Vivian McPeak
Seattle Hempfest

On this edition of Century of Lies we speak with Vivian McPeak,Executive Director of Seattle Hempfest, about partial success in an ongoing battle with Washington state over free speech issues; plus we
speak with Michael Krawitz from Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access about moves at the international level to reschedule cannabis.

Audio file



JULY 3, 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.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugPolicyFacts.org.

Well, this week we're going to talk to Michael Krawitz. He's with Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, and he's been very active on the issue of medical cannabis access, for veterans and non-veterans alike, on the international stage as well as within the US.

So we're going to talk to him about what's been happening over in Vienna, that Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in which they discussed the WHO's Expert Committee on Drug Dependence recommendations about rescheduling cannabis as well as descheduling CBD.

But first, loyal listeners will recall that we recently reported Hempfest was under attack. The state of Washington adopted rules, administrative regulations that essentially prevented companies involved in the marijuana business in Washington, these 502 licensees, from being sponsors or vendors at Hempfest.

Well, good news, the state of Washington has partly relented. I got a chance to talk with Vivian McPeak, the executive director of Hempfest, about all this. So, here's Vivian.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Well, what happened was, this year the Liquor and Cannabis Board came at us with a different interpretation of legislation that's been on the books for several years, and previously prevented licensed cannabis businesses, 502 businesses, from having commercial speech at the event or at any event, really, or on public property and a thousand feet from this and that and that, which pretty much creates a grid through the city.

They could have their logo and their name and they could have informational displays, political displays. And then this year, the LCB came and said actually they can't have any displays, they can't have even noncommercial speech, they can't have political speech, or information, or advocacy.

And we came back, said well that's not Constitutional, and so we filed an injunction and a lawsuit. A reinterpretation, they -- a clarification's one way to look at it, and how about folding, going back on the previous situation, because that's what they did. And so, yesterday, the LCB issued a new bulletin saying actually, cannabis businesses can have noncommercial advertising and can do informational displays and things like that, or noncommercial speech, excuse me, not advertising for their business.

And that satisfies the injunction that we had. But the lawsuit's going to stand until the legislature changes the law, because we feel that it's still unconstitutional, even on commercial restrictions.

DOUG MCVAY: Okeh. So, the lawsuit is still continuing --

VIVIAN MCPEAK: So in other words -- in other words, they backtracked on what they've been telling us.

DOUG MCVAY: Okeh. Not a complete capitulation but they're -- the bottom line here. You know, Hempfest will be going on one way or another, but will we -- will you still be, will people be able to sponsor stages, will they be able to have banners up on the main stage -- ?


DOUG MCVAY: Well, there you go.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Yeah. What happened, Doug, is about a month ago, LCB issued a bulletin to all the licensees basically telling them they couldn't be at Hempfest. And you can imagine how that worked with our current sponsors and advertisers that were L -- that were licensed events [sic].

And, they -- a lot of them freaked out or wanted to pull out of the event, which was, you know, kind of devastating to us. And now we have a month and a half to put the word out that no, you actually can be at the event without risking their license.

DOUG MCVAY: Wow. Quite a compressed time frame. That's a heavy lift.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Oh yeah. It is. It's been a year like that, Doug. There seems to be -- no, I'm not even going to say that, there is obviously a concerted, organized effort on the part of certain corporate and governmental entities to not have Hempfest happen any more, at least that's my -- that's my, what my interpretation of it is.

You know, we just came from a city meeting, Special Event Permit Committee meeting, minutes ago, actually, where we had several big left curves thrown at us. It's been one after another, frankly, and we're also in court with the city on things they've been trying to do to restrict various aspects of Hempfest, which we think are also free speech violations.

So, you know, as Bob Marley said, fighting for survival, fighting on -- fighting on arrival, fighting for survival.

DOUG MCVAY: So, the lawsuit will continue, you are going to be -- I've been looking up, there's, I mean, the tobacco industry had a -- had a landmark case the Supreme Court decided, where they decided that advertising restrictions were onerous, and that's -- that's, I think it was Lorillard. I'm going to have to look it up again.

But there is a tobacco industry case that I'm thinking that those LCB lawyers are aware of too, and they're probably quaking in their boots. The last thing they want is for cannabis to start being treated like other legal social use drugs.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Yeah, you know, Bailey Hirschburg is a NORML lobbyist up here in Olympia state -- excuse me, in Olympia in Washington state, the capitol, and he recently transcribed minutes from a public meeting, including the LCB direct and some other folks, and they had a huge discussion over, you know, what's going on here? Can we capitulate somehow?

And now we're on the front page of the news, we didn't think this was going to be a front page story. We've got these people making decisions on our behalf, and it was quite telling to us that they obviously seem to have the opinion that they're on some shaky ground.

And of course, that was our opinion all along. But in the meantime, Doug, you know, we still have a hundred thousand person event weeks away, and we have fought probably five or six battles in the last ten months that have, it's just, you know, you have limited resources. We have only two paid employees, other than that it's a complete volunteer event, volunteer staffed event.

And this legal stuff, not only does it churn up tens of thousands of dollars of revenue, or, you know, of money, it also takes a tremendous amount of time and focus just out of the, you know, daily planning and production level stuff that you've got to do.

So it's been beyond taxing, it's definitely been the most taxing year that we've ever had.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, of course people can find out about Hempfest and where, when, and all that, at Hempfest.org. You are on the 16th, 17th, and 18th of August, if I'm remembering right?

VIVIAN MCPEAK: That is correct, and you know, Hempfest is going to happen this year, no matter what. If we're down there with a bullhorn, so, you know, we're going to put a chimney to shame.

DOUG MCVAY: And -- oh, the one other thing, which I just -- which I just found. I was right, my memory was not, did not fail me. Lorillard Tobacco Company versus Reilly, it was a Massachusetts, does Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act preempt portions of the attorney general of Massachusetts cigarette advertising ban, and they went beyond that, talking about the Constitution, and it was about a ban on tobacco ads and sales of tobacco within a thousand feet of schools and playgrounds.

I don't like to make comparisons to either the tobacco or the alcohol industry because they're obviously different substances, but that's kind of the point. Marijuana's less dangerous than either of those, so you've got to think that we should not be facing tougher restrictions than those two other industries. That's --

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Yeah. And the argument, Doug, is that there will be children in the park, and they'll be seeing these advertisements for cannabis, right? And I was just at the Fremont Fair, which is on -- a street fair in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, and there was a -- there was a Corona stage with a giant, you know, ten foot bottle of beer banner on the side of the stage.

There were beer gardens throughout the event where people were drinking alcohol in full view of kids. I was just at the [unintelligible] car show, where there were restaurants that had people sitting on the sidewalk at tables drinking alcohol in full view of children and stuff.

So, you know, alcohol kills 88,000 people a year directly, who knows what the indirect impacts are, and so once again, I don't see this as a fight for legalization, I see this as a fight for equality with alcohol and tobacco users, and businesses.

And like you noted, alcohol and tobacco kills thousands, tens of thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of people globally every year.

DOUG MCVAY: Viv, any closing thoughts for the listeners? And give the website once again just in case people didn't hear it the first time.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Yeah, this is our 28th year, and its at Hempfest.org. They can also find us on Facebook and Twitter and all the usual social media places.

And, you know, essentially I want to say that free speech is not free. You've got to work very hard for it, and you have to be willing to sacrifice and take risks and throw it down. And so, you know, we just want to thank the community for 27 Hempfests free of violence and accidents any serious arrests or anything like that. There's usually no arrests at Hempfest.

And so my final words are just thank you to the cannabis community for being so awesome. That makes us proud to represent you, and it makes it possible to represent you.

DOUG MCVAY: Vivian, thank you. God bless you, good luck with everything.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Back at you, Doug. Take care, my brother.


VIVIAN MCPEAK: Love you, man.

DOUG MCVAY: I love you.


DOUG MCVAY: That was part of my interview with Vivian McPeak. He's executive director of the Seattle Hempfest. Again the state of Washington has relented in its ban on advertising and promotion by 502 licensees. They will be able to participate in Hempfest this year. The suit does go on, and we wish Seattle Hempfest all the best. They are fighting for everyone's free speech rights.

You're listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay.

Now, let's get to that interview with Mike Krawitz. He's again with Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access.

Michael, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs had a meeting on June 24th at which they reviewed recommendations from the World Health Organization's Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. Those recommendations on cannabis, cannabis resin, on various cannabinoids.

That ECDD, the WHO's body, is recommending some rather serious rescheduling moves. It -- could you tell us first of all what happened?

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: Well, I guess the first thing I should do is just a thirty second deep background, just so you know where this is all kind of coming from, because it seems a little confusing and if you listen to the Russian ambassador, you could be very misled as to where this is coming from.

Believe it or not, back in 2009, Japan asked for this. It wasn't just Japan, Japan and Azerbaijan put in a resolution before the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the United Nations body, 53 member states that are delegated the authority to work on the drug policy year to year, and they do.

And these 53 countries voted unanimously, consensus, that indeed, as Japan had pointed out, they didn't really know much about cannabis and they -- specifically Japan wanted to see if you could add cannabis seeds to control, because they were very concerned that their young people were buying seeds on the internet, probably from Marc Emery. Remember? [sic: Marc Emery had gotten out of the seed business by 2009.]

But they were buying seeds on the internet and growing them in their closet and they wanted to see if they could put that under international control, get some help from the international cooperation agreements to, you know, stamp this behavior out.

Well, I don't think to this day that they really realized what a box that they were opening by doing so, because seeds are exempt under the treaty. That was actually a very big lift that they were trying to do by adding seeds, and in fact, after all this time, and the World Health Organization weighing in and doing this huge evidentiary review, there isn't much said about seeds in the end. It's really funny.

But, in the end, the World Health Organization found out a couple of things. They found out that cannabis had never been reviewed before. They had never done a science -- they thought there was a scientific evaluation that underlied [sic] the placement of cannabis in the treaty back in 1961, and they were wrong.

So this is the very first evidentiary collection that's ever been done, and you need to know that the World Health Organization is actually written right into the treaty, the United Nations treaty on drugs calls for the World Health Organization, the world authority on medical issues, to weigh in on these drug scheduling decisions. That's who's supposed to make these evidentiary reviews and these recommendations.

And after doing so, they came up with a host of recommendations that essentially recognizes cannabis as a valuable medicine, even if it's the plant material, recognizes it as a medicine, and also recognizes that it's been inappropriately placed, that it should be much less controlled, much less restricted.

And less restricted at the international level would have implications in the United States, because our Controlled Substances Act of 1971 is also dependent on that treaty. It was written with the Constitutional authority of the federal law, you know, actually working right from the treaty, drawn from the treaty.

So, and a lot of other countries, a whole lot of other -- there's 186 countries that have signed the treaty. A lot of them have very closely tied national law to the treaties, so if you change the treaty, it will cause a cascade effect of at least review of their national law.

DOUG MCVAY: So now, the ECDD has done this review. They're recommending that cannabis the plant, in essence, should be taken out of its Schedule Four, which lists drugs -- controlled substances, rather, that are to be banned, period, and yet they're also saying it should remain within that 1961 convention's Schedule One, which is tight restrictions, still regarded as a dangerous drug, but that would no longer be a requirement that it be -- that it be banned. So --

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: In part. There's actually several parts to this, and I'll give you quickly the other parts. One is that there was considerable confusion around CBD. If you ask DEA about CBD, they say, oh that's drawn from marijuana, of course it's part of marijuana. It's marijuana.

If you ask someone that's doing hemp work, or doing hemp food products, or working in the hemp industry what CBD is, they'll say no, CBD is drawn from hemp, it's a nutritional supplement. It can be a medicine, you have to get it approved by FDA. And it has been approved by FDA as a medicine.

So this is very confusing. What the World Health Organization has recommended is a sentence in a note in the margins of the treaty that just makes it clear that CBD is not a subject to control. Just because you can get it from marijuana doesn't make it marijuana, not it's not marijuana, not it's not a subject to control.

That really could help a lot to clear things up, if that note gets inserted, if we win that vote and get that note inserted. It will make it clear that even with a dash of THC, CBD, even from plant material, doesn't matter if it's naturally occurring or CBD synthetic, it's not to be controlled as a drug.

The other thing that it said was --

DOUG MCVAY: To be clear, that means -- that essentially means descheduling. I mean, literally removing CBD itself from this, in a sentence --

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: Yeah, yeah, that would be -- they're clarifying that it isn't in the schedule, but it's from their perspective. You could look at it as descheduling, sure.

DOUG MCVAY: Yeah, which would -- yeah. Rescheduling is just -- it means moving the thing to a different schedule. This --

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: They're not -- they're putting a margin note that makes it clear that CBD is not a subject of control. So in essence, they're making both the argument that it's not a subject of control, and that it never has been.

DOUG MCVAY: Interesting. I'm sorry for interrupting, that was just, it's just that's --

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: Oh no, so, and the other things that it's doing, it's taking THC out of the 1971 treaty, which is all about hallucinogenic and psychotropics, and putting it back kind of where it belongs with cannabis in the '61 treaty. If you ask me why that all needs to happen, it's all timing.

Back in 1961, they didn't know what THC was yet, and the '71 treaty, when they passed it, they had found out what THC was and it was convenient to put it in the '71 treaty, and I think back then they were talking about it a lot more in terms of a hallucinogen, and I think these days scientists and those in the know, even police, they don't really talk about cannabis in terms of hallucinogen anymore.

And it really would make more sense for THC, synthetic or natural, to be in the same place as the plant material that produces THC, it's very confusing, so they're talking about rectifying that, and also, they're talking about medicines where it's hard to pull the THC out. In other words, some sort of composite medicine. Not necessarily FDA approved, but an FDA approved medicine would certainly satisfy this criterion.

They're recommending an even lower schedule, Schedule Three in the treaty. So, they're talking about taking it out of -- cannabis, whole cannabis out of Schedule Four, but leaving it in Schedule One, which is not the same as USA Schedule One, it's a lot less restrictive, so you know.

And then they're talking about, you know, preparations that can't be so easily abused being in the lowest schedule available, allowing for over the counter sales without a prescription, is what that calls for in the treaty, Schedule Three.

So that's -- it's a really amazing recommendation, and again, you know, it's the World Health Organization's job to make these recommendations. They're the ones that make these kind of evidentiary reviews, and if the United Nations wants to call its cannabis policy evidence based, they really now have no choice but to accept these recommendations.

They are fair, they were done with an exhaustive amount of study, dozens of higher institutions of learning involved, and I think they've done a fair job.

The critics would say, oh, well you shouldn't have cannabis in Schedule One, we -- that should have been reschedule out of Schedule One, but, two things about that. One, those critics didn't bring that up during the process. I wish they had, but they didn't, and we never really got to discuss this during the process, and it's a shame, because we all resolved during the process that that was okeh, for it to leave it in Schedule One, because of the fact that it would actually require a rewrite of the treaties, not just a rescheduling recommendation at that point.

The treaty is written around cannabis .They said things that look like cannabis are put into Schedule One. So, it would be more than just rescheduling to pull cannabis out of Schedule One.

And also, coca is in Schedule One as well. Coca and cannabis together in that schedule, neither one of them belong there. I think that an action, you know, by the United Nations later on to remove these plant materials from Schedule One and figure out what's more appropriate, rewrite the sections of the treaty that need to be rewritten.

I think that's a lift for the United Nations to do. That's my, really my thinking personally, but also my thinking with my organizational hat on, working as a coalition, we really don't feel slighted by that.

The Transnational Institute has been kind of championing the cause of rejecting the World Health Organization's findings because of just that, because it's inconsistent. Yeah, it's inconsistent, even the World Health Organization pointed out that cannabis really doesn't belong in Schedule One, it's not like a lot of the other things that are in Schedule One.

But, yeah. Here's where we are. And I think that in the end, I think this is actually something we can get passed through the Commission, again because it's reasonable, it's middle of the road, and it's completely based on evidence. It doesn't go off on a, you know, it doesn't do what we want them to do, it doesn't do what we don't want them to do. I think it's a compromise.

DOUG MCVAY: Similarity, indeed, is one of the, is the reason that the recommendation to remove it from the '61's Schedule Four, because it was so dissimilar from the other substances that were in that list of complete bans.

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: Absolutely. Absolutely. In Schedule Four, it was an absurdity. There was absolute consensus that cannabis didn't belong in Schedule Four.

DOUG MCVAY: Now, clarify. You mentioned coca and cannabis as not belonging in Schedule One. Would you say -- would, I mean, what do you think? Would the plant matter, the cannabis plant, the coca plant, should be either removed from the schedules or at least moved further down, and then the extracts, so cocaine and, well, THC I guess is in Schedule One now, right? Or is that their suggestion?

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: You know, this is one of those areas where my associate, [unintelligible], who I work with over there at the UN, and we've been kind of co-authors on all of these documents, I wish he could answer that because I think he'd be more ready to answer.

But my take is that, where we're at right now is that these plant materials don't belong there, but then again we don't have real consensus on exactly what we should do.

I think the idea to remove all the plant materials from control completely, and then only control the drugs. In other words, you have THC controlled, why do you need the plant material controlled? If you are growing the plant material as a -- in the treaty, it strictly allows for horticultural use, and strictly allows for industrial use.

So if you're growing it to make, you know, bedding for your horses, or you grow it because you think it looks pretty in your window box, that's of no concern to the drug authorities. Really, at the local level all the way up to the UN. Only it becomes a concern is if you try to put these, the drug substance from the plant material.

So I think it makes sense to actually remove these plant substances themselves from control, and only control the substances that are derived from them. I think, my opinion would be to do that.

DOUG MCVAY: We're going back to the Yippies from the 1980s. You know, natural plant drugs, put stricter controls on the things that are further out, the processed, use the, you know, have the, things like coca products available to sort of sop up the market.

I mean, there's, if there's a legitimate market for coca products that don't, you know, that doesn't involve the processing into cocaine, then just give the farmers an income and the raw material's no longer available to the cartels. I mean, it's actually a pretty straightforward kind of way to deal with the whole thing.

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: You know, I've witnessed some great stuff over the years, and one of the things I witnessed was President Evo Morales speaking for Bolivia over at the UN about coca. And what he said applied to cannabis completely, if you just pull the word coca out and put cannabis in.

He was talking about how it had been used as a medicine, it was used by, you know, a group of people in their cultural habits and rituals going way, way back, and it was a food, it was a medicine, it was part of their rituals and practices, and there are all these great products derived from it, and that it's not a drug.

He emphasized that Bolivia was willing and ready to step up and fight, you know, against very dangerous drugs, but, including cocaine, but, you know, coca was not cocaine, and they needed to draw a line that allowed their people to commerce in this and to utilize this substance that had been part of their way of life for, you know, forever.

And I just thought it was wonderful. In fact, you know, we talked to -- we got to talk to the president after that, in an NGO room, and, you know, several people from the cannabis movement were asking him for help, and of course, that was the wrong thing to ask him. You know, he wasn't there to work on cannabis issues for us.

But, nonetheless, I think, you know, if we had said, hey, thank you for that, and we're going to use that as a model for what we're going to try to do with cannabis, and it's a real inspiration to us. I think he would have liked that better.

DOUG MCVAY: You know, I listened to that -- I listened to that discussion and when they were starting to talk about THC, there were, you know, the -- there was concern, you know, among a lot of the -- among the people out there at this, the delegates about THC and the stories they had heard.

And it strikes me that, well, the concerns about really high levels of THC, yeah, natural plant product. If the plant product is available, then you've got, you know -- yeah, I suppose you'd have to have some kind of a price mechanism to keep people from processing into oils and doing the high powered concentrates. But, that's a thought that's going to be developed later.

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: And, that also I think is an argument for doing this slowly, and leaving as a bridge cannabis where it is in Schedule One, taking it out of Schedule Four so it's no longer as you say prohibited, but it would be -- it would be available as a medicine and normalized as a medicine but still controlled.

And if someone was to make a lot of high potency oil, that's, you know, not going to be an insignificant thing. It's going to be something that, just like making coca paste out of coca, or anything else, it's something I think governments will be able to easily still enforce their drug laws, even with these changes.

It's just going to take a little bit of the sting out of it for the, I think mostly for the user, and for the patients, because right now it's such a big hammer that they're going after these plant materials with, that it prevents all access. I mean, I don't need to tell you how hard it is in some places to have -- to get access.

DOUG MCVAY: And I'm not saying that I think that they should treat oil and high THC product in that kind of way. I think though that I can see them moving in that kind of direction.

Michael, any closing thoughts, and give us the social media and other web address where we can keep up with the work that you're doing.

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: Sure. So, the closing thought is that this timeline runs til March 2020, and that's when we'll have this majority vote, and we need to put pressure on these 53 countries that are members of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs to do the right thing and accept these recommendations.

Every -- all hands on deck, everybody has a role, you can help in a multitude of ways. Just pay attention to it, talk to your governmental leaders would be a good start. But anything you want to do to help. Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, you can find us on Facebook, Facebook.com/USA.VMCA, as in Veterans Medical Cannabis Access.

DOUG MCVAY: That was my interview with Michael Krawitz from Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access.

And that's it for this week. Thank you for joining us. I'm Doug McVay and 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.

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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.