07/19/21 Ethan Nadelmann

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Ethan Nadelmann
Drug Policy Alliance

Ethan Nadelmann, founder of Drug Policy Alliance premiers new podcast: PSYCHOACTIVE on I Heart and other outlets. Ethan and DTN host Becker discuss the podcast, overdose deaths, new US Drug Czar and much more

Audio file

DEAN BECKER: (00:01)
I am the Reverend Dean Becker keeper of the moral high ground in the drug war for the world. And this is cultural baggage.

DEAN BECKER: (00:15)
This October is going to make 20 years that I've been on the airwaves of America on my drug truth network and Pacific radio, but I'm proud to have competition just a couple of weeks ago. I was on Michael Krawitz', show a podcast, if you will. And, uh, there's some new competition that's airing today. The day we're recording this show, there's a new show that's being put out thru I heart radio. It's called Psychoactive. It features my good friend, a man, a mentor, an associate, an ally of drug reform. Mr. Ethan Nadelmann.

Hi Dean, its good to back on, back on your show.

DEAN BECKER: (00:59)
Thank you Ethan. Let's tell the folks a little bit, uh, you were one of the founders of the drug policy Alliance. You served them for, well, I think 20 years or more to tell us a little bit about that past..

And Dean, let me say, I don't really regard this as competition. I see this as complimentary because I think what you've been doing for the last 20 years in terms of, uh, just interviewing really everybody involved in drug policy reform, you know, building out well, I mean, it's not just what you're doing in, in the current day and being available today, but it will, as I've said before, really stand as the leading oral archives of this movement. I mean, so you are making a significant contribution to the, to the future history of drug policy reform as well. And for that, for that, um, I'm very grateful. Um, so for, for me, basically men, as you know, Dean, I first got involved in this issue almost 40 years ago. You know, it began as a graduate student at Harvard writing a dissertation on the internationalization of policing and drug enforcement.

You know, back in the mid eighties, I got a security clearance to the state department. I interviewed DEA agents all around Latin American Europe. I wrote a book cops across borders and other book, um, uh, police in the globe with Peter Andreas. Um, but in 87, you know, 87, 88, I started speaking out at the height of the drug war. I was then a professor at Princeton and you know, was involved, uh, with Arnold Trebeck and Kevin's EES when they were founding the drug policy foundation in 87, 88, joined their board, helped organize their conferences. Um, and then, you know, 92 had the good fortune to get that phone call from George Soros, inviting me to lunch. We hit it off. I left Princeton. I started what was first known as the Lindesmith center, which was the drug policy project to the open society foundation. And then in 96, got deeply involved in, um, the, basically the ballot initiative work, you know, at first we could prop two 15, the California medical marijuana initiative, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

You know, where there had been an initiative drafted by local activists in San Francisco. And I was able to come in and raise the money and turn into professional campaign and win that. Um, and then, you know, in 2000, uh, drug policy foundation had fallen on hard times. I was spinning my Lindesmith center out of open society foundation, Soros and foundation, and merged it 21 years ago into the drug policy Alliance, which then emerged over the following years as you know, far and away, the leading drug policy form organization, not just in the U S but around the world, but anyway, that's what I've been doing. And then as you know, cause you interviewed me four years ago, uh, actually six years ago, back in 2015, I I, 2016, I decided to step aside. I announced that in 2017 and in may of 2017, I did step down as head of DPA and proceeded to take life very easy for the last four years.

You know, you know, playing a little advisory role mentoring role here and there with some of the younger activists, including my successors at DPA, getting a fairly engaged in one semi new issue for me, the fight over e-cigarettes and tobacco harm reduction. Uh, but then an opportunity emerged, uh, last year, uh, you know what I left EPA four years ago, I actually thought the first thing I thought I wanted to do was to do a podcast. Does it seem to me no, you know, no responsibilities, which was nice after being responsible for an organization that had grown to be 75 people, uh, you know, no scheduled time things like not like teaching a course or doing a radio show, I could do it, you know, whenever I wanted to do it, but none of the right opportunities kind of emerged. And then last year, the right opportunity did a Merage, which is why I'm happy to be launching psychoactive today.

DEAN BECKER: (04:57)
Well, thank you for that. history as I asked for and thank you for that. Again, folks, we're speaking with Mr. Ethan Nadelmann, uh, uh, some folks will call this man the godfather of drug policy reform. And I won't refute that. I think there is a lot of truth in that, uh, thought. Um, the, I, I, I was thinking of the Beatles song. It was 20 years ago today. Sergeant pepper taught the band to play and it was Ethan Nadelmann that taught all us activists how to play, how to get involved, how to be part of making this change happen. And I, on behalf of all of those folks, and I don't think I'm stepping too far out of bounds in thanking you for having made that happen, uh, that education, that, uh, funding that support that, uh, just the idea that there's somebody else that thinks this way. And it's okay to say these words out loud because back when we, when I was beginning and, and certainly when you were starting out, the L word was, uh, a particular concern, uh, then many people did not want to use legalization in their speeches. Your thought, dear

Sir. Oh yeah. I mean, I mean, you know, I mean, Dean, I think part of my journey on this thing, you know, was how to deal with that word as we proceeded because in the early years that word was used by our opponents to basically disparage all of the incremental reforms we were trying to do, you know, we would try to do medical marijuana and they go, you want to legalize all drugs. We would tie it needle exchange. We would try to roll back hard sentencing. And they would instantly, you know, um, you know, attack us on that. And so I always had a, uh, you know, I was always, and because I've always been focused, you know, it's not just about putting out the right arguments, it's about being sophisticated about our communication strategies and our languaging. And so I would generally try to oftentimes avoid the word legalization in the late eighties and into the nineties, you know, but I remember when the first big pieces I wrote was in a conservative journal called the public interest.

It's no longer around, but it was one of the leading third policy journals. And I remember they wanted to call my piece, the case for legalization. And I said, don't do that because I'm not a libertarian legal ISER and it's gonna, it's going to make it seem like an extreme ideological, uh, you know, sentiment. And they said, well, he said, if you're not willing to give it that title, we're not gonna publish it. So it came out in as the case for legalization. When I published a piece in science, the following year in 89, you know, I focused on drug prohibition. I prefer to put drug prohibition in the title because I wanted that phrase of drug prohibition, which almost nobody used back. Then people use legalization, they didn't use the phrase prohibition. It was like we were getting ahead of ourselves, you know, and I wanted to, I wanted to really get that phrase of drug prohibition much more out in popular discourse.

And so I feel very good about the way they drug prohibition has become a much bigger part of, of the language of the recognition. And I thought it was important to use that phrase prohibition both because what really, for two reasons, I mean, what does it made the analogy to alcohol prohibition? And it got people to appreciate all the consequences, all the ways in which, what was wrong with the drug war was mostly a result of the failures of drug prohibition. Not of not a drugs per se. Right. Um, so I think there was that element. And then obviously, I mean, I'll tell you the, I remember there was a point must have been early two thousands maybe. And we were doing some, I was looking at all the different polls around marijuana legalization, and I saw that it must've been 20 years ago. So, and I thought that if you ask people, do you want to legalize marijuana, you got 30% support.

Then if you ask, do you support making marijuana legal, right. Dropping that hard XE and legalize, it went up to 35%. And then if you said, how about treating marijuana like alcohol will tax and regulate and control it and try to keep kids away. It went to 40%, right? So the same basic idea, but the language we used, um, really, you know, shifted public opinion. Now, ultimately the media was going to do what it was going to do, you know, but even I, in fact, one of the things I would oftentimes do on the languaging in the earlier years, I would use the word legalize in talking about medical marijuana, because to support for medical marijuana was already so strong that it could carry the negatives of the word legalized, like, oh, okay. But I would avoid using the word legalized, although you couldn't totally avoid it in talking about broader adult use legalization. Right. I would try to use, make it legal and prohibition tax and regulate or whatever. Now, fortunately we are in a day and age when two thirds of Americans say, yeah, let's legalize weed. And so I see that as a mark of our success, a real mark of our success,

DEAN BECKER: (09:57)
Chuck Schumer is going to put forward a bill in the Senate to decriminalize marijuana. Now, I, you mentioned legalized versus incremental, and I am an extreme legalizer. I hate incrementalism. I think, you know that, um, we own the moral high ground. I did a whole campaign on that, that we, we have nothing to be ashamed of and we should have just claim it and demand they defend their policy. But that's a whole other story, but I guess the point is Schumer is now wanting to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. Let's talk about that.

Yeah. I mean, listen, I mean, to me, there's no alternative incrementalism. I mean, I know, but I hate it. I hear you, but you know, you've heard me say the line, you know, there is no Berlin wall of drug prohibition to be torn down. There is no 18th amendment of drug prohibition to be repealed by the 21st amendment. Right. It's basically we have that, that proceeding and making sure, you know, one of the key things about having a kind of a long-term strategy is making sure that as we support and move forward, invest resources, the incremental steps that we're always taking a next step forward because there's some risks. I mean, we had some allies in the criminal justice world, you know, who saw the early versions of drug courts as good things, but those were oftentimes two steps forward and three or four steps backward.

So I think there were people in the early years, I remember it back in 25 years ago, there were people who, um, who supported marijuana legalization and oppose medical marijuana because they thought it would undermine support for legalization by, by skimming off the most sympathetic victims of marijuana prohibition. And conversely, there were people who were wanting to legalize medical marijuana among the activists who are hostile, their broader marijuana legalization. So, you know, for me, it was always about pursuing both incremental Strat and also keeping the longtime strategy in mind now with respect to Schumer's bill. I mean, first of all, he's, co-sponsored it Cory Booker, who's been a long champion and Ron wa Cory Booker from New Jersey, Ron Wyden from, um, from Oregon, uh, you know, Schumer's my Senator in New York. I know him slightly for many years. Um, you know, he was always quite a drug warrior, you know, kind of like the Diane Feinstein, uh, Joe Biden ill.

Right. But he also, unlike them was always softer on marijuana. I remember. So my conversations with him, you know, he never, I don't know whether it was cause he smoked when he was younger or he just got it. Was it here? You got a guy who is the Senate majority leader. I mean, it's hard to imagine having a busier job in Chuck Schumer these days, you know, they're trying to get the major economic reinvestment packages in. He's trying to figure out the voting rights bill. I mean, they're dealing with all this stuff and yet it feels like he told one of his aids, make sure you get a half an hour on my calendar every week to talk about the marijuana legalization bill. And I think he realized it is a win, win, win, win, win for him first because it's very popular in New York, we just legalized and he's got to watch out for a challenge from the left, you know, AOC and others are very popular.

So for him, it, it takes that piece. It does have a racial justice part. It's got overwhelming support from Democrats nationally and in the house of representatives, right? It even now has majority support among Republicans coming from a, either a small business perspective, a libertarian perspective. You saw the states that legalized in the last election included red states, you know, like South Dakota and Montana. And I am purple state like Arizona. And then of course, Mississippi, you know, very red legalizing medical marijuana who understands it, puts the Republicans a bit on the defensive. Some of the Republicans who come from states that have legalized marijuana are ambivalent about the whole thing, right? So I think, and by and large it's good public policy. It's good smart public policy. So I think he's very right to be out front on this issue.

DEAN BECKER: (13:49)
Thank you for that. Ethan. Now, another new, um, an adjacent story. Um, we're going to have a new drugs are, uh, here in a few days, a new head of the ONDCP, Correct?

We are, we are, we are going to have one on, you know, I'll tell you there was a very thoughtful piece of validate you only online journal filter. I really think it's probably the best online publication out there right now covering, you know, the drug war and harm reduction it's called filter founded by will Godfrey. Um, and there's a piece in it, um, by Zach seagull interviewing people in our world about what they think of Guppta. And they're basically focusing on the potential upsides here. I mean, people are concerned, you know, he was the West Virginia Senator Joe, mansion's a nominee because Guppta had been the, uh, the, uh, the head of the public health program in West Virginia. You know, he did do some good things on the overdose stuff and harm reduction and he did some bad stuff. He's he seems to be pretty and aware. Um, I think he said the right things on marijuana, but I'm not positive on. So, you know, at this point I'm kind of whole holding judgment on

DEAN BECKER: (15:02)
It. Thank you for that. And yeah, it is a bit early to assess much on the new guy at Ghouta. I want to remind folks we're, uh, speaking with Mr. Ethan Nadelmann he's, uh, the founder former head of the drug policy Alliance. He's going well today. He's starting a brand new, a podcast psychoactive and among the many guests he's going to have, um, you're, you're going to have president Obama. I, it looks like

No not Obama yet. That's one of my dreams I'd love to get Obama on. I'd love to get bill Clinton. I know I have the one former, I have former president of Columbia, one Daniel Santos right there for eight years and just stepped down a couple of years ago and won the Nobel peace prize for his efforts to resolve the civil war in Columbia with the farm. And I had a great contract. I mean, I've already prerecorded about over a dozen of the episodes. So this morning, the first two went up. Well, I did an opening monologue about 10 minutes, and then the first two episodes over the Dr. Andy Wile, you know, who's really the guru of integrative medicine. Um, but really is known to all of us for his wonderful writing. You know, his early books back in the seventies and eighties and natural mind from chocolate to morphine, the marriage of the sending the moon, his articles on all aerospace of drugs is pioneering research on marijuana use back 50 years ago.

So Andy and Andy, somebody who I've known since 1987, he wasn't just an intellectual influence to me. He was also played a major role in my personal life. I mean, as a kind of defacto doctor to me when I went through a very difficult time in the early nineties. Um, so that one's the first episode up and also up today. Um, you know, it was July 15th, uh, James Foreman, who is the Yale law professor, um, who wrote a book called locking up our own, uh, that won the Pulitzer prize for nonfiction three years ago. And it's about the, really the debate within the black community in this case, Washington DC, over the drug war. I mean, he was a guy who clerked for the Supreme court Sandra Day O'Connor and a little like Obama, you know, instead of going straight to some big shot, other job, he decided to become a public defender in DC the same way Obama had become a community organizer and, you know, not on the other way. And he's there saying that, you know, his work as a public defender is like, you know, the next step of the civil rights movement, but meanwhile, confronting all of this black community support and black leadership support for the drug war. And he wrote this very, really insightful and courageous book about what was going on there. So we had a great conversation. So those two are up today. Um,

DEAN BECKER: (17:41)
Another, uh, Pulitzer, winner James Foreman, Jr. Uh, oh, that's what you're just talking about. Uh, Dr. Nora Volkow, that's what I was wanting to say, director of the national Institute on drug abuse. Now she was an enemy or it felt like she was an enemy for a long time, but she's moving.

I got to tell you, man, I was very surprised at Nora Volkow said, yes. I mean, of all the people as they guest to me, I was really surprised because I've been highly critical of her at [inaudible], you know? Um, and she said just, I mean, look, I think, why did she say us? I don't know. It may just be because the times are changing because the Biden administration is finally using the language of harm reduction because marijuana is now basically legal, um, because the racial justice issue is, um, front and center. At this time, she just came out with a, uh, a port piece supporting decriminalization of drug possession, although with a fairly conservative definition of decriminalization, but she came on, I did grill her pretty hard. You know, I also you'd get a kick out of this one B I started off by pointing out that she is now, she's been head of night and national center for drug abuse for 18 years.

So the only federal, the only body who ever served longer and a federal senior federal drug control position, I believe was Harry Anslinger, you know, for 32 years, federal bureau narcotics from the founding in 1930 till he stepped down and 62, but I grilled her on a lot of things like why is she spending a fortune on all this brain disease stuff, which, you know, isn't, hasn't really produced very much as yet, and just seems a huge waste right now when we're dealing with an overdose epidemic. You know, I asked her whether or not supporting the really deep seated ethnic graphic work on that would really help us deal with the overdose phenomenon. I asked why you should not some really supporting research on psychedelics and the treatment of, of drug addiction, except for a couple of studies involving ketamine. I asked why she's not looking, why don't they do more work looking at how the majority of people who use drugs responsibly and don't have a problem with them?

Why is it all about abuse, abuse, abuse? So I gave her a pretty tough time, but she was very gracious. Um, and I did find places to compliment her on things where I think she has done well and played an important role. I think she's been good on, on the issues around, uh, drug treatment, methadone buprenorphine, trying to make that more available behind bars. I think I, you know, I saw even in the early years for testifying before Congress and standing up very strongly for the evidence on needle exchange to reduce HIV aids. So, you know, she she's, she's had her moments and I want her to be sure to praise her on for some of those things.

DEAN BECKER: (20:20)
Well, and that's kind of my objective when I interview the other side is to find ways to compliment them, to find means of connection to, hopefully to where they'll come back

To practice for the, to get a sense of how to do the bulk cat one. Cause she's the only person I really interviewed yet, um, who is really more on the other side. And what I do is I listened to David Axelrod's PAG podcast episode with the Congresswoman Liz Cheney, uh, just to see, you know, how he interviewed, I mean, you know, she obviously show quite a lot of courage and stepping up, you know, and the whole Trump thing and January 6th, but I mean, I wanted to get a sense of how he did it, you know, with somebody on this side. So, so that, that, that was a good one. I'll tell you what some of the people, the guests, you know, um, you know, some of these guests, I overwhelmingly agree. And so there I feel with my, my, my job is, is to really challenge them, um, on stuff, you know, uh, uh, I'll give you one example.

I had probably the, one of the most brilliant people, if not the most on the issue of e-cigarettes and tobacco harm reduction is this British expert, Clyde bakes, who headed a leading anti-smoking organization his day, but who's just brilliant and provocative. But what I did is I pulled up the entire list of what would be the most critical or hostile questions he would be asked by the folks who oppose harm-reduction the people being paid by Bloomberg and all these others. And so, you know, I mean, I think that's part of my job as a, you know, as a, you know, as an interviewer, you know, you know, unfortunately I have very much of a kind of devil's advocate kind of personality by nature. So I think, I think it's well, in that regard,

DEAN BECKER: (22:04)
One of the other breaking news stories, the highest number of overdoses ever in these United States, 93,331 up 30% from last year, 69,710 from opioids alone. And I think it was Nora Volkow had mentioned something to the effect that, uh, they're finding larger numbers of those dying from fentanyl mixed into the cocaine. You're responding. There is no logic to this drug war. That's where I come from. We own that god damned moral high ground, and we got to stop pussyfooting foot. And your response,

I agree a hundred percent, you know, I mean, hopefully these numbers will drop a lot now that you know, the cause the pandemic obviously had a big impact. You know, I mean, often the people were, were more likely to use a loan, which means there was no way for somebody to help him out, give him the watch or whatever. Um, part of it was people were losing their jobs. There was a lot of despair, you know, programs that could help people were shutting down because of the pandemic. So hopefully we'll see that number drops substantially this year, but then you see stuff like, you know, why is, um, you know, why is fentanyl, you know, an opioid very powerful opioid showing up in cocaine and methamphetamine. And you know, what argument will be like if the modern day speedball, you know, like old cocaine and heroin was, but there also appears to be a lot of like, uh, it appears a lot of dealers don't even know what they're cutting their drugs with.

And a lot of consumers don't know, and there's not all that much opportunity for checking your drugs the way they had in some European countries and such. And so, you know, one reason I'm very critical of Niagara is I think, and I said this actually in, in, uh, I testified before the Senate a few ago before the Homeland security committee, it was actually Ron Johnson, Wisconsin, Senator, who is ooze chairing it. And I said, you know, what, what we really need is an army here, but we need an army of ethnography, like hitting the field and doing what's called snowball, interviewing, interviewing drug users, people injecting drugs and drug dealers and trying to figure out what's going on. We need to know, you know, when people hear there's Federalist supply, are they going, looking for it? Are they running away from it? What, what precautions are they taking?

We need to know from the, the retail dealers, like, are they cutting it or is it getting cut at higher levels? And if so, do they know what they're doing? And cetera, and what kind of, you know, machine and machinery do they have for dealing with this substance, which is potent, it's such infant testimo amounts. You know, I mean, so, so I, I just think, uh, you know, I mean, you're right, like you look at the closest thing we have to legalization now is probably what, you know, British Columbia is doing unsafe supply. Basically try to put this idea here that if you use these drugs, don't take them from the black market, get them from a safe source. And I think that's where we need to be headed as well and all this sort of stuff. So I think, you know, it's not just America's particular socioeconomic crises with both kind of, you know, both poor people, both of color and white, where you see this really it's really a class issue here. Um, and that actually, it's not just class. You got a lot of, I know a lot of wealthy people whose kids have died from an overdose, quite frankly. Um, but I mean, it, you know, there's something wrong in America. That's creating this problem. Some of that's a broader problem. Some of that is just about ideology and stupidity on the policy level.

DEAN BECKER: (25:23)
Well, there it is. And that's what I'm saying. You mentioned there's no Berlin wall. There is the morals of this drug war. They can be exposed, they can be knocked down and that's where I am these days. But anyway, we got to wrap it up. Friends. We're speaking with Mr. Ethan Nadelmann, he's got a brand new, uh, uh, podcast called, uh, psychoactive it's, uh, it's, uh, premiering today. This is a Thursday when we're recording this, you can catch it out there on iHeart radio. Um, it may be Eastern will give us some more details on how to get involved, but I want to close this out with one more question for you, sir, you were talking about, you had interviewed the former president of Columbia, Juan Manuel Santos. He got that Nobel prize for helping to solve that situation in Colombia, but as with everything drug war related, it goes in cycles. And Columbia is now once again, and with the United States, quote, help is thinking about spraying that, that Monsanto product on the crops down there. And anyway, just repeating the whole thing

Again. Yeah, Dean, I mean, I would say, well, first of all, listen to my podcast, psychoactive, you can listen to it almost on all the major channels. It'll be on Spotify. It's on apple, it's iHeart radio. I mean, almost any places. People listen to podcasts, they can find, they can find it there and they can as an 800 number or 8, 8, 8 number, whatever, and an email address to send comments and such, you know, with respect to Columbia, you know, Santos was really brave and strategic and pushing that through, you know, his successor has not been as committed to the peace agreement. He's a little more on the drug war. Ilk Santos got elected as a bit of a drug warrior, but really turned, did a 180 and became very much, you know, a promoter, uh, you know, of drug policy reform. He's now serving on the global commission on drug policy. Hopefully they will. I mean, Columbia is dealing with massive problems now, huge protests, you know, growing poverty, a bad his time with COVID. And meanwhile, they got, you know, the peace agreement at some risk of breaking down and the government talking about wanting to be spraying crops, which is not gonna help anything. It's why Santos decided to stop doing it years ago. So hopefully, uh, we'll have to see what happens next there. But I think people in Columbia are really feeling it a semi desperate situation,

DEAN BECKER: (27:40)
Thank you for your time, Ethan, I wish you great success with your new podcast Psychoactive.

Dean part of Psychoactive is I have the folks I'm working with are helping to get some of these big, you know, like people like Tim Ferris, the podcast host, who's going to millions, Dan Savage, the columnists, you know, and these are people not normally on drug policy, uh, you know, high cast and stuff like that. So, so I'm getting some of those and I'm going to try to be mixing in more. So a few of the people that you would also be kind of interviewing, you know, like I did interview the head of DPA's New York office who led the New York mayor marijuana legalization effort, listen more, you know, I did interview Elia step or the Columbia professor. Who's doing research on ketamine and psychedelics. So it's going to be a mix of the famous, the political, the celebrity, the activist, the efforts, the researchers, you know, it's really going to be mixing the whole thing and just trying to have as much fun with it as I can. Thank

DEAN BECKER: (28:33)
You for listening to this edition of cultural baggage out. And again, want to thank Ethan Nadelmann. He's always a very kind to share his time. It's up to you though. You have to help in this drug war, you have to speak up, educate yourself. There's more than 8,000 radio shows Hannigan. I remind you because of prohibition. You don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

11/13/19 Ethan Nadelmann

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Ethan Nadelmann
Drug Policy Alliance

REFORM conference in St. Louis with Ethan Nadelmann Drug Policy Alliance founder, Rev. Edwin Sanders of Metropolitan Church in Nashville & Chad Sabora of St. Louis harm reduction group

Audio file



NOVEMBER 13, 2019

DEAN BECKER: Hi, folks. This is the Cultural Baggage program on Pacifica Radio and the Drug Truth Network. I am your host, Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High.

The following was recorded a few days ago in St. Louis at the Drug Policy Alliance Conference (DPA).

EDWIN SANDERS: I am Edwin Sanders, I am a Senior Servant at Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, TN., we are a congregation that is committed to radical inclusion but also we are a congregation that is very much committed to addressing social justice issues in a way that allows us to have to respond to what is happening as it relates to issues of drug policy, and health with regard to infectious disease, HIV, mass incarceration, reproductive rights, and we could go down the list in terms of economic opportunities and developments. One of the things that I always insist upon people appreciating is this is not a single-issue dynamic. There is a way in which what we do in terms of drug policy reform is very much connected to all of the other ways in which the injustices are being perpetrated upon communities that are most disproportionately impacted. One of the things that we are trying to do is to make sure that the divisive and fragmented forces that are very often at work as a primary agenda to keep the efforts of the collective body of people that bring the compassion, concern, and dedication. There is a way in which all of those things come from a place within that allow us to be able to transcend the ways in which we often have things defined to us as being impossible or somehow out of reach in the realm of reasonable. It is only the people who move beyond the ways in which logic and reason have been misused thinking that does not lend itself to an openness that takes one beyond the ordinary.

DEAN BECKER: Let me interject a thought here. What you began is a list, if you will, of problems – situations that we are having to deal with in our society, many of which do spin off from this “belief” in the drug war that was developed 100 years ago that has unfolded itself over the years and being more draconian, more time behind bars, etc., but that is beginning to unwind I think. More and more areas of concern that you are addressing are being exposed as less than perfect. They are being shown to be in need of change and it is giving a lot of people like the good folks here at DPA the courage, motivation, and inspiration to work harder to expose and end these fallacies. Can I get your thought there, Sir?

EDWIN SANDERS: I think one of the things we have come to realize in our societal reality is that whenever you hear the word war, you need to just look and begin to try to see and understand where the money is because we historically have had a war economy. Whenever you hear the language of war people talk about a war on poverty but we know that the war on poverty was no more than a way in which dollars were put in to the economy in a fashion that allowed it to pass through the hands of people who desperately needed resources, but have no way to develop and use those resources other than to put them back in to the same system that had been a part of what created a need for the change. This is true whenever you see the word war. We now know that the war on drugs translated in to mass incarceration, it translated in to the ways in which there was the undermining of the opportunity for economic development and growth within a sector of our community and the people within that community who have always been disenfranchised, disinherited and left outside of the equation of inclusion. One of the things you have to do is appreciate the fact that in too many instances we have not been able to deal with the obstacles that are before us in terms of change because we have gotten sucked in to the notion of believing that the ways in which the measures of success are driven by the factors that are no more than a part of what is an extension of that economic reality, which ultimately has never been in the interest of those who are marginalized and those who are on the periphery and have been systematically left out of the circle of inclusion in our society. You see that whether it comes under the name of immigrant, under the name of lack of education, under the names of all kinds of labels, but the fact is it is the way in which there has not been a welcome for those persons who have been outside of that circle. There has never been a welcome mat there. It began with the various ways in which people have come to this place that we call America, and also the ways we dealt with indigenous people that were here when the first Europeans arrived here. There has always been a dynamic at work that has systematically undermined the viability of long-term opportunity for people who are not included in which the idea of what was to be. You hear people talk about America being America again. America being America again means looking at the ways in which the issues of segregation, disenfranchisement in terms of citizenship. There have been people over and over again who were victims of a mentality that was driven by an idea of development, the things you get taught and the misinformation like the language of manifest destiny was part of the development of this country. All of that is a part of what we are still dealing with to this day. This is the aftermath, this is the remnant of that mentality but the remnant is now becoming the building block of another dimension of the same kind of perpetual exploitation and oppression of people.

DEAN BECKER: Reverend Edwin Sanders, thank you Sir. That was Reverend Edwin Sanders with the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, TN.

We are in St. Louis at the Drug Policy Alliance gathering – major event, lots of wonderful things going on. There are a whole lot of folks with important information to share and who did I run in to? The previous Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Mr. Ethan Nadelmann. How are you doing, Ethan?

ETHAN NADELMANN: I am doing great! I am enjoying my retirement, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: We know you are never really retired, but I know you are slowing down. We will just go along with that. Now Ethan, it seems prohibition is always creating new problems, it is always finding a way to make things worse. There is a new situation that is happening to us now, these vape pens. They are killing some people; injuring a lot of folks and there is a lot of concern as to why and or how we can do anything about it. You have been looking in to that a lot, have you not?

ETHAN NADELMANN: Well I tell you, Dean, what really got me – I have been following this issue around e-cigarettes and tobacco/nicotine harm reduction for a long time. Sometimes I organize the sessions on this at the DPA biennials in the past because nobody in the organization was doing it so even though I was the ED, I would do that. It always seemed to me there was a lot in common between the tobacco harm reduction stuff and the other harm reduction work we are doing. It is all about meeting people where they are at; it is taking people who are engaged in a risky or dangerous behavior who are unable or unwilling to stop doing what they are doing, and to give them some alternatives that reduce the risk to their health and to their wellbeing. This all seemed fine and good, but then what has happened is that the opposition to e-cigarettes and to tobacco harm reduction is flabbergasting to me. It seems at this point we are in a new drug scare and moral panic around the issue. There was the issue with JUUL becoming immensely popular among young people and that is a real issue – teenager’s vaping.

DEAN BECKER: They are colorful, have flavors and galore, right?

ETHAN NADELMANN: Flavors, and even more than the flavors it is this handy little device. It is discreet and it became cool and hip. JUUL unfortunately did some marketing that was teen friendly early on but I think even if they hadn’t done that marketing this thing probably would have taken off before a whole set of reasons. The amazing thing about JUUL, and a lot of these other e-cigarette devices and vaping devices is that they are the most effective way for cigarette smokers to quit. Cigarette smokers who have tried doing things like patches, gums, and pharmaceuticals – the evidence is now showing that basically e-cigarettes can be twice as effective as these other things. The second thing is that by in large, e-cigarettes (although we don’t have the 40-50 year longitude studies but there are a lot of toxicology reports and studies – Publish Health England, which is the British equivalent of our Centers for Disease Control (CDC) came out two years ago saying that e-cigarettes are probably 95% safer than is smoking cigarettes. Even our own National Academy of Science Engineering Medicine came out and said they didn’t know if it was 95%, but clearly a lot safer in terms of reducing exposure to all of the things in cigarettes that kill you. Even the CDC acknowledge this! Put it this way, if one could snap one’s fingers and tomorrow all 35 million people in America who smoke cigarettes were to entirely switch to vaping and keep vaping for the rest of their lives it would be one of the greatest advances in national or global public health history. The fact of the matter is that number of Americans who believe that vaping is as or more dangerous than smoking cigarettes has gone from a third of the country to 60-70% now, so there is massive misunderstanding, massive miseducation all sorts of people who might benefit from switching from smoking to vaping aren’t doing it or their families are discouraging them because they think it is actually as bad or worse. The majority of Americans think that nicotine is why cigarettes cause cancer. Nicotine doesn’t cause cancer, it is what hooks you. It is the burnt particle matter, the tars and all of the other crap in combustible cigarettes that kills you. So I am concerned with this massive misinformation campaign and then along comes the scare with these lung injuries and deaths. We are in mid-November right now and there has been 1500-2000 hospitalizations and three dozen deaths. The evidence is suggesting that at least 85% of these cases involve people getting sick from using THC cartridges that were obtained either illegally or from friends, which are being produced by gangsters who should be behind bars.

DEAN BECKER: Kids in their garage.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Kids in their garage or maybe not kids, but other people who are cutting it either carelessly or intentionally with things like Vitamin E oil, which is fine to eat but not good to mix and then vaporize or there may be other issues. So we know that the major part of this problem and maybe the vast majority of this problem involves illicit THC cartridges. What is the government doing right now? They are going out there and saying this is the reason we need to ban flavored e-cigarettes, which has nothing to do more or less with this whole thing. This is the reason that Massachusetts Governor Baker is saying that they are going to ban the THC vapes – the ones that have been sold in stores for years with no problem. The government is instituting bans, i.e. prohibitions on legal products which will thereby push people more to the black market which is where the problem was to begin with, right? For me I feel like it is Drug War 2.0, so I have a new hashtag on Twitter, #TheNewDrugWar, #DrugWar2.0. I am seeing the whole thing happen. We feel like we almost won the battle on marijuana legalization and now I am witnessing the new prohibition on another drug. Although many people in the illegal harm reduction area (which is yours and my world) get it, my political allies – the people in politics (Liberals, Progressives, Democrats) who have been our allies on drug policy reform and harm reduction are typically the ones on the other side of this issue so that is very disillusioning.

DEAN BECKER: I want to throw this thought back to you, Ethan, the fact is that those 2,000 hospitalizations – the few dozen deaths that have occurred – lets stack that up against the 200,000 people who have died from using actual tobacco in these last six months. It is so out of proportion, is it not?

ETHAN NADELMANN: It is totally, wildly out of proportion and I think that people in power understand tobacco harm reduction. For example, the FDA just approved Snuts which is a tobacco pouch that you can put in there that is proven effective. Sweden introduced this years ago and it became popular among men; not women. The rate of cigarette smoking among Swedish men dropped to the lowest in the entire European Union and it is almost impossible to explain that without the uptake and the use of Snuts. There is another thing called Ikos, which is a heat not burn device in which you put the tobacco like the old packs or something, except a more sophisticated version. The FDA hasn’t allowed the makers of Ikos to promote it as a harm reduction device but they are allowing it to be sold. So people are accepting to some level of harm reduction. The fact that JUUL took off like wildfire among kids freaked everybody out but then I see the arguments they are using. They are talking about e-cigarettes being a stepping stone to smoking cigarettes and while it is true that kids who smoke e-cigs are more likely to try cigarettes than kids who don’t try e-cigarettes but when you look at the ones who go on, the vast majority are not going on to smoking and for those that do they just try a cigarette and the ones who are trying a cigarette are typically the ones who might have smoked a cigarette before they ever used an e-cigarette; or kids who would have gone to cigarettes but for the existence of e-cigarettes so you are talking about – I used to say about the marijuana gateway hypothesis is that an ounce of truth is better than a pound of BS It is the same thing about this stuff – an ounce of truth is better than a pound, or in this case an ounce of truth is better than a kilo of BS. Then they talk about the adolescent brain. We know that you don’t want kids getting addicted to nicotine it is a powerful substance but we heard this on the marijuana thing, too. There was some element of truth to it, but to exaggerate these risks? Then they say that e-cigarettes and the adolescent brain and I am thinking 50% of America’s greatest generation were smoking cigarettes and nobody ever talked about the brain damage of all of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. The hypocrisy of it! You see the headlines, “25% of All Teens Are Vaping E-cigs”. Read the small print. What is their definition of a vaper? A person who tried an e-cig at least once in the past month. That defines it? If I am somebody who eats red meat once or twice a month that defines me as a meat eater but I look a lot more like a vegetarian or a pescatarian then a daily meat eater. The distortion is –as you see I am getting animated here.

DEAN BECKER: This is wonderful news for all of us really. Ethan, this organization – Drug Policy Alliance has been the leader, it has been the respected organization that has drawn attention from educators like Marsha Rosenbaum has done here recently and from politicians at every level; state, federal, local because you guys have the clout. You have the knowledge, the experience, the people and you have made one hell of a difference over the decades now and I wonder if you might give us a brief summary of what has been accomplished during your tenor here at DPA?

ETHAN NADELMANN: I go back to teaching at Princeton and speaking publicly in the late 80s, early 90s. In 1994 I left the university and created the Linda Smith Center. I built that up for six years while also being on the board of the Drug Policy Foundation and then in 2000, we merged the two to create Drug Policy Alliance so I sort of date my days going back to the mid-90’s or even earlier. Obviously the most dramatic success was on marijuana and one of the things I take the greatest pride in is having played a role in moving the country from 25% support for legalizing weed to over 60% and from zero states legal for anything to over 35 states legal for medical and 11 states legal for all adult use. That is a monumental transformation and to do that in the country which was the global drug war leader for most of the past century – to poke those holes and move strategically and advance the medical marijuana issues state by state thereby transforming the imagery and the public discussion around marijuana at large and then to shift public opinion – all of that stuff I take enormous pride in. At this point, I think we basically won. The bigger fights are over what the marijuana market going to look like and given that we live in the most dynamic capitalist society in history are we really going to be able to build the significant social and racial equity part in this and I think we have to try. For me I think that is something for the next generation to focus on. It is something that I care about, but for me the big picture was ending marijuana prohibition. That was a third of our work.

You take the second third of the work which was really about ending the role of the drug war and mass incarceration and thereby driving down mass incarceration as much as possible, and in that respect, just as the war on drugs drove mass incarceration in the 80s, 90s, and early 00s so drug policy reform was the cutting edge of criminal justice reform beginning in the late 90s and in to the 00s and in to this decade. You look at Rockefeller drug law reform in New York, you look at reform of mandatory minimum sentences at the state level and the federal level. You look at our work to get rid of these bogus drug-free school zone laws which are basically mandatory minimums with better marketing. We really led the way on all of these things. Our ballot initiative in Arizona ’96, and California treatment instead of incarceration. At this point there is still a huge amount to go. Drug arrests unfortunately are still going back up again but at least we are bringing down the numbers of people locked up in state prisons and such on drug charges. You look at places like New York, New Jersey, California, which really drove the big increase in numbers – those have come down the fastest.

DEAN BECKER: Texas is still hanging in there.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Texas is hanging in there but even there it has come down somewhat on the drug numbers. I think that now the criminal justice reform field where for decades, apart from Soros there was very few other people funding. Now there is oodles of funding coming in to this movement. People are taking on everything from bail reform to other elements of sentencing reform, to taking on the deeper structural issues around this stuff, to taking on bad prosecutors in their own races so it is a much broader field where drug policy reform still plays an important role, but where I think the niche is much more focused on ending the criminalization of drug possession because it is still the #1 cause of arrest in America, it is still filling if not state prisons, definitely local jails.

DEAN BECKER: I would think you would take to heart in what just happened in Oklahoma where they took 450 former felony cases, mostly drug related and dropped them to misdemeanor and let those folks out of prison just this week.

ETHAN NADELMANN: That is right. I think Oklahoma had a ballot initiative not long ago that was successful as well so even a place like Oklahoma – some of the people in Oklahoma have a senator who looks like a right-wing Neanderthal to the right of Jeff Sessions almost except with maybe a prettier face. You have got some bad stuff going on there but it is really encouraging to see even in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana you have good stuff happening. Then you look at the last third of our work which is really around harm reduction. We kind of led the way with some allies on legalizing access to sterile syringes through pharmacies and needle exchange programs in the 90s and in to the 00s. In the big states like New York, New Jersey, California and elsewhere I got Soros to be the #1 private funder of needle exchange for many years back in those days with still a long way to go. We organized the first international conference of preventing overdose fatalities in Seattle, Washington in January 2000; almost 20 years ago when overdoses doubled from five to ten thousand at that time. We have been committed to this issue for ever and ever. We have led the way in drafting better Naloxone access legislation, 911 Good Samaritan Laws trying to take those steps. Now it feels like all the people who were hesitant (cops, drug czars, etc.) are now really embracing Naloxone and 911 Good Samaritan Laws as the right way to go. There is still a lot to do on that front. There are the safe injection facilities where it looks like safe consumption rooms was going to move forward. I am perpetually disappointed that we haven’t made more progress on allowing access to legal pharmaceutical grade heroin in clinics the way the Europeans and Canadians are doing. The greatest frustration is that the basic ethos of harm reduction, the basic notion that you should not be putting people behind bars for simple drug use or drug possession no matter how many times they use if they are not getting behind the wheel of a car or hurting somebody. We are still struggling to get the public to really accept that. The public goes along with the view that we don’t want to throw somebody with a drug addiction the first couple of times they get caught or do something bad but if they aren’t going to get clean we gotta lock them up. In trying to go to that Portugal model, the more European model I was mentioning you never lock somebody up for simple drug use or possession. Getting people to understand that the 12-step model, the AA model – while it helps a lot of people, there are other ways that work for other people often times more successfully. We are making a lot of progress in breaking through that paradigm but we have a long way to go still.

DEAN BECKER: I promised you a short interview – we have about gone four times over what I had thought we would but I want to thank you once again – not just for Drug Truth Network, or my listeners, but for everybody in the United States and worldwide for the work you have done. Thank you, Mr. Ethan Nadelmann.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Dean Becker, than you very much and for you who I describe as the person who will go down in history as the oral archivist of this movement. I think you play an incredibly valuable role in talking to everybody involved in this thing for decades now and it is going to make a big difference. Historians are going to rely very heavily on the stuff that you are producing, never mind the people who benefit probably right here today and now. Thanks, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: We are here at the Drug Policy Alliance gathering in St. Louis, Missouri. I am speaking with Mr. Chad Sabora, he is with MoNetwork based here in St. Louis. He has many packages sitting on his table of Narcan, the nasal spray. Hello Chad.


DEAN BECKER: Tell us about the work you do.

CHAD SABORA: We run a hybrid harm reduction recovery community center. We treat people and engage them at wherever there are at in their journey whether they are still actively using with no intent on stopping, still using with the intent on stopping, along with early recovery and long-term recovery. It doesn’t matter – we take a look at the individual and help them accordingly to reduce harm to themselves, harm to society and sustain their current recovery or offer them alternatives if that is what they are seeking.

DEAN BECKER: That is unique – a new hybrid perspective that is being accepted more and more; that you meet people where they are at.

CHAD SABORA: We are one of the first hybrid recovery community center models in the country that encompass the whole spectrum.

DEAN BECKER: Tell us a little bit of the history behind that?

CHAD SABORA: We have been operating this recovery community center since 2015. We have been an organization since 2013. We are heavily involved in policy reform, we wrote all of the Naloxone laws in Missouri including 911 Good Samaritan Law. I personally wrote all drug policy law in Missouri. I was a heroin user up until 2011, I was also a former prosecuting attorney in Chicago as a drug user so I had an interesting perspective on our drug laws and our war on drugs so when I found recovery I dedicated our work toward more policy reform.

DEAN BECKER: That is marvelous news. Sometimes it takes people hitting rock bottom to find themselves again – to recreate themselves, does it not?

CHAD SABORA: I hate to use the words rock bottom because –

DEAN BECKER: I did, too.

CHAD SABORA: --That is death considering that Fentanyl has poisoned our drug supply, but yes. It takes what it takes for somebody to want recovery and even in they just want to use they are still human beings and should still be treated with dignity and often healthcare and other resources. So for people listening, your views on drug use, drug addiction are not your fault. We have had broken drug policy in this country since Chinese immigrants brought over opium in the 1840s so your understanding of drug use, drug policy, criminalization was almost subconsciously implanted in to you by your dad, your grandparents, your great-grandparents during the early 1900s when they passed the Harrison Narcotics Act to make all drugs illegal. A couple of Supreme Court cases that dictated what treatment was legal and what treatment wasn’t legal so everything we have done on this country so far has built a faulty foundation based on criminalization, prohibition, and arrests. We have to tear down this foundation and rebuild it in a public health setting.

DEAN BECKER: Folks, if you want to learn more I would urge you to go to Chad Sabora, thank you very much.

CHAD SABORA: Thank you.

DEAN BECKER: Well that’s about all we can squeeze in this week. I want to once again thank the Reverend Edwin Sanders, I want to thank Ethan Nadelmann, Chad Sabora from MoNet, and I want to thank you for listening. We are going to have about six or seven of these shows from St. Louis, I urge you to tune in during the coming weeks. I gotta wrap it up folks.

Again I want to remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please be careful!

Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network, archives are currently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, and we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.

04/24/19 Ethan Nadelmann

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Ethan Nadelmann
Drug Policy Alliance

Ethan Nadelmann the founder and former Exec Dir of Drug Policy Alliance + Chris Whitener supporter of Patients out of Time & Exec Dir of Magical Butter.

Audio file


APRIL 24, 2019


DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Hi, folks, I am the Reverend Dean Becker, this is Cultural Baggage. Some program notes before we get started. Still have some leftover segments from my visit to St. Louis with the Drug Policy Alliance folks, got another show to build from that, and we have one or two more that we can do from our visit to Florida, the Patients Out of Time conference, but we've got a special guest today.

Well folks, today I have the privilege of talking to one of the few people I feel have a knowledge base about this drug war that are better than mine. He was the founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, the executive director for, I'm thinking 15 or 20 years, he's now retired, but he's never really going to retire from drug reform.

I want to welcome my friend, my ally, Mister Ethan Nadelmann. Hey, Ethan.

ETHAN NADELMANN, PHD: Hey, Dean, it's great to be back on your show, and I really so much appreciate the work that you've been doing in just really providing both the radio voice and in some respects this can ultimately be the archives of the drug policy reform movement. So thank you for doing this.

DEAN BECKER: Well, thank you for that. Yeah, you know, Ethan, I think about it, the work you have done over the decades now, the little bit I've helped along the way, and many of your allies within Drug Policy Alliance and elsewhere have opened this situation, have exposed the fraud, the misdirection, of this drug war.

More and more people, more and more publications, politicians, scientists, are agreeing with what you put forward those years ago, and they're speaking more boldly of the need for change. Am I right, sir?

ETHAN NADELMANN, PHD: Well, I think that's right, Dean, I mean, look, on the one hand, I'll tell you that when I first got going on this mission, you know, decades ago, I remember, you know, going to visit a very wise man named Ram Dass, a sort of spiritual thinker and leader, and one piece of advice he gave me was, look, in the end, you have to let go of your attachment to the things that you're fighting for.

In other words, that, whether we win or lose, that the struggle we're engaged in to end the war on drugs and to promote a drug policy grounded in positive values, science, compassion, health, and human rights, that ultimately that's what matters in life. Right? For each one of us who are engaged.

You know, at the same time, there is no denying, it's good to win. Right? Most of us are competitive souls who want to win, we want to lock up the victories, we want to change things in the real world, just -- not just fight the good cause.

And in that sense, I feel very lucky and proud, because I think if you look back over what's happened, especially and most dramatically on the marijuana issue, I mean, moving the country, moving from 25 percent support for legalization back in the '80s to sixty percent now, and from zero states legal to thirty-plus legal for medical and ten on broader recreational adult use, and more going forward.

I mean, I just take enormous pride and pleasure in having played, you know, a role in making that happen.

When you look at the broader efforts to end mass incarceration, and especially our particularly piece of it, which is ending the contribution of the drug war to mass incarceration, clearly we have begun to turn things around.

But in many respects, it's like turning around an ocean liner, right, you can point it in the right direction but it takes a long time until you finally see this new direction emerging.

But we are, and we have been making progress, and I think that's going to accelerate, and we've got to smart and savvy and strategic about the next steps to make sure the counterattacks don't trip us up.

And then on the third area of our work, about making commitments to treating drug use and addiction as a health issue, not a criminal issue, I think there, too, we're making a lot of progress, sometimes driven by tragedy. First it was the spread of HIV AIDS, and now it's been the overdose crisis, but we're clearly making progress there as well.

But, this is, as we all acknowledge, a multigenerational struggle, and we are now into the second generation of this struggle, and it's going to have to continue for a ways to come.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, I agree with you. You know, I've come to the conclusion that at 70 years of age, I may not live to see pot legal in the state of Texas because of who we have firmly entrenched here.

But the fact is we are making progress, slow, incremental stuff here, and larger progress being made around the country.

I want to bring forward an idea that I shared with Doctor João Goulão when I was in Portugal last year, along with many of the folks from the Drug Policy Alliance, and he was talking about how we don't have a moral attitude towards drug users. He's talking about how they're less than, they're not quite human. Well, that's not the words he used, but, we demonize folks, kind of cast them aside as being unworthy. Your response to that, Ethan.

ETHAN NADELMANN, PHD: Well, you know, oftentimes you hear people involved in drug policy reform saying we've got to keep the morality out of drug policy, right, because we tend to say that morality is about the pseudo-moralism of the drug war folks, of the anti-drug folks, the assumption that using drugs is immoral per se and that the people who use, make, produce, sell, whatever, consume, are somehow fundamentally immoral.

And so many drug policy reformers will say -- will say that we should take the morality out. But I think the point is very well taken, what João Goulão said, is we really need to put the morality back into drug policy. This is about recognizing the fundamental humanity of everybody, and not making exceptions in our principles about the worth of every individual based upon the fact that they consume one drug or another.

It's interesting that people who struggle with addiction, and sometimes wreak havoc in the lives of people around them, where we rightfully, understandably get furious and angry at them, yet at the same time understanding that we need to dig deep to deal with this in as moral a way as possible, even when that's tough on -- even when it's tough and difficult for us to do.

So I think that's right, that the stigma against people based upon the drug they put in their body, even people who do no harm to others, remains very powerful all around the world. I mean, I'll tell you, Dean, I was at a gathering last week on the cannabis issue, and, you know, there's a lot of focus, correctly so, and including in my own comments, about the racism that permeates every piece of the drug war, from its origins to the way it's implemented to, well, you know, the public's view of it.

I mean, all of it, I mean, racism just permeates the drug war, especially in the US, but many other countries as well.

But the point I made was that even as we need to understand as deeply as possible the role of racism, there's another ism there, and it doesn't sound right, it's not a great word, I won't want to run with it, but let's call it drugism. In other words, the irrational prejudice, and stigma, and fear, and hatred of people based upon the substance they put in their body.

The assumption that anybody, because you put in drug X or Y as opposed to drug A or B, that you are therefore less than, that you are therefore worthy of being punished or discriminated against.

I mean, that thing just persists in our society in a very powerful way. We can talk about, you know, junkies or druggies or pushers, in a way we don't allow that kind of prejudicial talk about other people based upon race or gender or things like that anymore, at least in mainstream or conventional society.

And so I think identifying and uprooting that element of, for lack of a better word, drugism, is fundamentally important to putting the morality back into drug policy.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Ethan, I run into that ism quite frequently, you know, online in particular, you know, people talk about, well, if they hadn't had the meth with them then it would be fine, let's lock them up forever because they were using these harder drugs. But let's bless our sacred weed, and, you know, go after those people who take the pills and the powders.

Little realizing, I think, that by endorsing prohibition, they're delaying progress overall for marijuana as well, by giving it validity. Your response there, Ethan.

ETHAN NADELMANN, PHD: Well, I mean -- well, I think with marijuana, we're really getting there, and I realize it's slow going in Texas and other parts of the country on this, but ultimately I think the end of marijuana prohibition in the United States and many other countries is -- we can't drop the ball now, and we're unfortunately becoming over reliant now on industry and for-profit forces to make this happen.

But it is going to ultimately end prohibition, and those who are hanging onto prohibition, they're touting its supposed benefits in terms of reducing drug use or problems like that, I think they're fundamentally missing the immorality of the prohibitionist policy.

Now, when you start talking about the prohibition of cocaine, and heroin and methamphetamine, drugs where there's remarkably little progress in terms of the broader population endorsing some form of legal control or regulation, there it's a much tougher challenge.

And I think, you know, on some level it's acknowledging that the sort of, whether it's a libertarian model or a tougher regulatory approach that would allow the over the counter sale of drugs like heroin and cocaine and methamphetamine, is in a very distant future if at all.

And therefore the way we need to think about this is, A, we have to focus on ending the criminalization of drug use and possession. Right? Just being very clear about that. It's the Portugal model, the way the Portuguese made a commitment to saying we're not going to put anybody in jail for simple possession of any drug.

If they're really a bad guy, they say, we'll catch them with something else, but we're not going to use the taxpayers' resources, we're not going to punish people simply based upon the fact that they're taking a substance. We're going to do our best to help them, but if they reject our help, we're not going to lock them up.

Moving forward in the US, towards reducing the criminalization and ultimately ending the criminalization of drug possession for one's own use is pivotally important from a moral level and a policy level.

And the further we advance in that regard, we then come to the next level challenge, which is how do we come up with ways that allow people who are addicted to drugs, or even many of those who just want them and are not addicted, how do we come up with ways that allow them to obtain legal access to the drugs they want in a way that does not undermine broader public health. Right?


ETHAN NADELMANN, PHD: What are the things in between criminalization and over the counter model that could actually work? It's the heroin maintenance programs one sees in Europe and Canada, it's finding the ways to knock out the criminalization.

And so I'm very attracted to what the folks in British Columbia are talking about right now, they're talking about safe supply. Right? They're trying to go beyond the heroin maintenance model, the limited clinic model, to something that talks about how do you allow people who want to get drugs to get them in a safe form, and do it in ways that do not endanger the broader public health.

That's the next two level challenges in the US and many other parts of the world.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. Ethan, and by the way, folks, we are speaking with Mister Ethan Nadelmann, he's the founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, the former executive director, now still working in drug reform.

Ethan, each week, I go to the courthouses here in Houston. I wear a different shirt each week, I hand out these cards that, you know, encourage people to get involved, et cetera.

Last week I wore the one that said "Cops Say Legalize Heroin. Ask Me Why." And a few folks came up and asked me why, but some folks when I started to tell them about what I learned in Switzerland last year, from Doctor Christoph Buerki, he designed a program where they have, it's not that many, I think it's in the few thousands of Swiss citizens, who get pure heroin every morning and every evening from the government.

Twenty-five years they've been doing it, twenty-seven million times, and they've had zero overdose deaths. And I think it is the fear of these drugs that helps to exacerbate the problem, that creates the harms. Your thought there, please.

ETHAN NADELMANN, PHD: I think, I mean, Dean, I'll tell you, by chance I happened to be in Switzerland back in 1992 on the day that their federal government gave the approval for Zurich and a few other cities to go forward with the heroin trials, so I've followed it very closely throughout these years.

It's not just eliminating overdose fatalities, it's also reducing the likelihood of the transmission of HIV AIDS and other infectious diseases, it's reducing criminality associated with drugs, helping people get their lives together even when they're continuing to use pharmaceutical heroin.

It's actually a net benefit economically to the taxpayer because the cost of these programs is less than the amount of money saved on the public health and public safety side. So it's very clearly the right way to go.

I remember back in the late Nineties, I think, cover story of Der Spiegel magazine, you know, the German version of -- the best selling news magazine in Germany, Der Spiegel, and the cover story was, majority of big city German police chiefs support legalizing heroin, or heroin maintenance.

And the reason was, was that once the cops were able to get past their initial response, which was, how can you be giving junk to the junkies, how can you just do that?

Once they began to realize that providing pharmaceutical heroin in clinics to people who are addicted to street heroin, where they cannot take it home but had to use it there, that it was good for them, the users in terms of helping stabilize their lives and being safer, it was good in terms of crime reduction, and it was also good in terms of certain, you know, diminishing the overall illicit drug market, that it was a win-win-win for them.

So, I think there's a lot of police chiefs in the US who would get this after a thirty-minute or sixty-minute conversation. A lot of DAs, a lot of politicians, you know, there are ways to do this, the organization that I ran for many years, Drug Policy Alliance, has been making a major effort to engage researchers, in getting research trials going in universities, to get this going in the US.

So we will see it happening in the US in coming years. And it's all the more important now because of the incredible jump in overdose fatalities as a result of adulterated heroin, you know, stuff cut with fentanyl.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir. Now, all those benefits you listed that the cops could recognize, there's one that I've been trying to bring forward, and it's seldom addressed, and that is, were these drugs to all be legalized, we would suddenly have tens of millions of American citizens who could then align themselves with the cops, who could, in effect, report serious and violent crimes without the worry of, you know, being hassled by the man, so to speak, for having broached the subject to them. Your thought.

ETHAN NADELMANN, PHD: Well, I mean, I think it's important, you know, that ending the drug war and some form of legalization is not going to be any panacea in terms of addressing the underlying issues of racism and other things that drive over-policing in communities. Right?

It's not going to be a panacea, but it is true, you know, so long as, you know, young people, and young people of color, know that they're especially vulnerable to being stopped by the cops and arrested solely because of the substance they may have in their pocket?

I mean, that's what drove the marijuana arrests, these record levels in recent years, it creates a feeling of suspiciousness, you know, it generates crime in ways that certainly cause people to be wary of calling the police. Right?

It's the whole issue you have right now where you have marijuana quasi-legalized in many places, but not fully legalized, and so when a marijuana seller is victimized by a real criminal, they can't call the police and complain. Right? So, clearly, ending the criminalization of drugs in this way and putting people in a safer position, where they feel calling the cops will not basically make themselves suspect or possibly arrested, will definitely be a key step forward.

DEAN BECKER: I think you're right. Now, Ethan, I know we're running out of time here, I want to bring up something.


DEAN BECKER: The -- I'm going to mention Law Enforcement Action Partnership, formerly Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Americans for Safe Access, the list goes on, these are not all exactly founded by the DPA [sic: SSDP and ASA were founded before DPA was incorporated], but they have been supported and embraced, and encouraged to grow over the years.

It feels good to have those stepchildren, does it not?

ETHAN NADELMANN, PHD: Well, I'll tell you something, I mean, the way I thought about there's, like, four major types of organizations working out there.

One are basically issue specific organizations, like ASA working on medical marijuana, like Harm Reduction Coalition working on harm reduction. The old North American Syringe Exchange Network, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Rick Doblin's MAPS, working on the psychedelics issue.

You have all these issue specific organizations that are doing spectacular work, some quite successfully, some growing quite successfully. So that's one group.

The second type are the geographically specific ones. You have state drug policy reform organizations in different states or communities around the county, right? There's a New York group, there's a Connecticut, there's a group in this state and that state, some are working on just some issues, some working across the board, but you know the old saying, you know, that, you know, all politics is local, and think global, act local?

Well, that's really true. When people ask me how to get involved in drug policy reform, I say, educate yourself as much as possible, but then get engaged locally.

The third type of group are different constituencies. Students for drug policy reform, SSDP. Law enforcement, that's LEAP, that you just mentioned. Clergy against the drug war, doctors against the drug war, each of these constituency based groups also playing a role in terms of educating their own: cops, students, what have you.

And then lastly, you have the Drug Policy Alliance and some much smaller organizations that are taking the whole thing, looking for the opportunities to end the drug war more broadly, still trying to build something resembling an allied and conscious drug policy reform movement, because ultimately that's the way change is going to happen.

And I think, Dean, with that, I need to sign off. But, it's been wonderful talking with you, and I look forward to doing it again, and to seeing you at the Drug Policy Alliance biennial in St. Louis this fall.

DEAN BECKER: Well, real good, Ethan. Please, one last question, sir.


DEAN BECKER: I think the majority of people -- cops, citizens, everybody, knows the truth, enough of the truth of this matter, the drug war is failing, but they're afraid to talk. Give them a little impetus to stand up and do their part, please.

ETHAN NADELMANN, PHD: Well, look, I mean, ultimately, people have legitimate fears about speaking out when they may be at risk of being fired for it, at risk of being ostracized, you know, by neighbors and people who belong to associations to which they belong, but ultimately, you know, we all have an obligation not just to learn and understand the truth, but to speak truth, and ultimately to speak truth to power.

And so, you know, one has to find a way to do that. I've seen people who kept their views secret for many, many years, and then finally found the moment or opportunity where they felt compelled, or they felt safe, to speak out.

Sometimes it's just on one piece of the drug war. But I think, you know, more and more people are finding that courage.

It's a lot like the way people were hidden about their homosexuality, either their own or family members', and as more and more people found the courage to speak out, and, you know, as images change, as the media played a new role, the entertainment media, what have you, you know, basically, more and more people became comfortable to the point where this has become less and less an issue.

We're seeing that increasingly now around the use of marijuana, and even around the use of psychedelics. So I think it's about coming out about one's own personal life if one can, one's own views. Things have changed a lot, I mean, it's very different now than it was in the late '80s, early '90s, when I was getting started and when there was a culture of fear, and a sort of, you know, a drug war that I've described as McCarthyism on steroids.

We really have come a long way. We have to make sure we keep going and things don't roll backwards, as they did back in the '80s.

DEAN BECKER: If you'd like to learn more about the Drug Policy Alliance, just go to I understand Ethan's headed to Portugal to attend the International Harm Reduction Conference. Hope to hear some good things from that event.

I guess, to be fair, after that interview I should play something in support of eternal wars.

He’s the Drug Czar,
Wages an eternal war
On free will.

He knows all,
The Drug Czar knows all.
He’s in charge of the truth
So he tells nothing but lies.

He professes such great sorrow
For the thousands of his minions who died.

He’s the Drug Czar
Waging his eternal war
On our free will.

All right, as I indicated at the start of the show, we'll have more from the Florida gathering of the Patients Out of Time, but I want to say this, there's a group that funded many of the events, many of the locales where they were able to hold this conference, and they were the high bidders on all the paintings and the marijuana tin canisters from the federal patients, et cetera. I want to share an interview I did with their spokesman,

CHRISTOPHER WHITENER: Christopher Whitener, executive director of

DEAN BECKER: Now, Christopher, we're here at the thirteenth Patients Out of Time conference, it's a gathering of knowledgeable folks, folks who have been at this for a long time, and have delved deep into the cannabis product and its potentials. Tell us about Magical Butter. What's it about?

CHRISTOPHER WHITENER: Well, thank you for your time. Really honored to be here at the Patients Out of Time conference, and Magical Butter's been a longtime supporter of Patients Out of Time, and patients in general.

We provide people with the essential tools they need to be successful in the kitchen. In 2012, Garyn Angel invented the Magical Butter machine. It's a countertop appliance similar to an immersion blender combined with a slow cooker.

It's microprocess controlled, it's simple, you just put your herbs in there, you need to decarboxylate your botanicals and combine them with either butter, cooking oils, or you can make tinctures and lotions.

Once you have your measured ingredients, you select the temperature, and the time, and the machine is going to heat up, mix, stir, grind, and extract, and leave you with an infused butter or oil.

We have a full line of accessories that help make that process easy, from extraction to infusion to baking. And you can make fully extracted cannabis oils, coconut oils, butters, and topical skin lotions easily at home.

DEAN BECKER: Sounds amazing, truthfully. Now, I went by your table and there were several accessories, I guess, if you will, that look like maybe they work in the freezer or in the fridge or something. Tell us about some of those accessories, please.

CHRISTOPHER WHITENER: Yes, so, you may have noticed we have several different molds and trays. A butter tray that gives you perfectly measured ingredients. When you pour your infused butter in there, you're going to have tablespoon amounts, and when it comes time to use that in your daily diet or recipes, it makes it real easy to measure.

We also have a full line of candy trays. They're simple silicone molds that enable people to make candies and treats very easily. They're marked with a 21 and up emblem, and that's to protect people who are not adults and also so people will understand that it is a medicated treat, and not just a standard candy.

We also have a set of silicone spatulas, and a silicone box that is made to go inside your oven, comes complete with a thermometer, and this is going to help in the decarboxylation process to make sure you're not overheating your herbs. Overheating it can degrade the potency in the activated compounds.

DEAN BECKER: Now, this has been on the market for quite some time. You guys seem to be doing quite well. I saw your Magical Butter mobile last night, out in the front of the hotel. Tell us about that vehicle, what's its purpose, how is it serving your company?

CHRISTOPHER WHITENER: Well, that's the Magical Butter limousine, and it's been there since the beginning. Not only does it serve as transportation that looks cool, but it's a moving billboard, and we've driven the limousine across the country three different times.

We've taken part in, you know, patient activism, traveling from Washington state to Washington, DC, and now the limousine is used for private use, but it also makes for a great area for business meetings.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I'm sure it does at that. Chris, I appreciate your time, I appreciate the work you guys are carving out there at Magical Butter. And, you know, across the country, there are folks, old folks like me who smoked Marlboros for way too long, can hardly choke down anything, let alone some cannabis.

But, edibles are the way to go for us old folks. Wouldn't you think?

CHRISTOPHER WHITENER: You know, yes, I would say so. It's a way that's healthy and it's not going to have any harsh side effects that smoking or vaporizing could cause.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Well, Chris, thank you for your time. Share your website one more time, for the listeners.

CHRISTOPHER WHITENER: Yeah, for all the listeners out there looking to check us out, go to Thank you so much to Pacifica Radio, and thank you Dean for your time.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Responsible for countless overdose deaths, uncounted diseases, international graft, greed, and corruption, stilted science, and immense un-Christian moral postulations of fiction as fact. Time's up! And this drug is the United States' immoral, improper, bigoted, unscientific, and plain f'ing evil addiction to drug war.

All approved by the FDA, absolved by the American Medical Association, and persecuted by Congress, the cops, and in obeyance to the needs of the bankers, the pharmaceutical houses, and the international drug cartels. Five hundred fifty billion dollars a year can be very addicting.

I guess we've got to wrap it up, but as you heard with my discussion with Ethan, I was talking about probably never see legal weed in the state of Texas, but there's a chance, a strong chance we'll see legal hemp being grown in the great fields around Hempstead, Texas, and maybe even in my back yard. Heck of it is, hemp is good stuff, hell it will help you quit tobacco cigarettes, calm you down, is the way I understand it, and it shouldn't cost very dang much.

Again I've got to remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag, I urge you to please, my friends, be careful.

To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network. Archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.

11/18/16 Ethan Nadelmann

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Ethan Nadelmann
Drug Policy Alliance

Ethan Nadelmann Exec Dir, Asha Bandele Sr Dir, Lynne Lyman CA State Dir, Tamar Todd Dir Legal Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance Conf on new cannabis laws

Audio file


NOVEMBER 18, 2016


DEAN BECKER: Hi, this is Dean Becker. Thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. Following on the heels of the elections, the Drug Policy Alliance held a conference to talk about the impact on particularly marijuana around the US, and here to open it up is Asha Bandale of the Drug Policy Alliance.

ASHA BANDALE: This is Asha Bandale. I'm a Senior Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Let me first just begin by turning the phone over to our executive director, Ethan Nadelmann, to give us an overview of what has happened in the world of marijuana law reform. Ethan?

ETHAN NADELMANN: Okeh, thank you very much, Asha. Yeah, it was really a remarkable set of victories last night. To see the victories for medical marijuana across the board, and on marijuana legalization. Just some of the details of this, you know, California was obviously a monumental victory, and my colleague Lynn Lyman will talk about that shortly. Nevada and Massachusetts also won handily. In Maine, it looks like we won, but there's still a possibility of a recount, so we're calling it a victory but it remains to see, and then Arizona was the only state that lost.

On medical marijuana, Florida, North Dakota, and Arkansas all legalized medical marijuana, and Montana passed a sort of fix-it initiative. They had legalized medical marijuana back in '04. It had almost been wiped out by the legislature, and so this was, you know, getting medical marijuana back on the rails.

The one way to look at these initiatives politically is that medical marijuana won in four essentially red or reddish states, and marijuana legalization won in four blue or bluish states, with only Arizona the one sort of red state rejecting it. And I think that shows us a trend for what's going to be coming up ahead, which is we can see marijuana legalization prevailing in a growing number of states. The next state to legalize marijuana may well be in New England, such as maybe New Hampshire or Vermont, both of these states, and that those would be the first ones where marijuana legalization was put forward through the legislative process rather than the ballot initiative process.

And I think given the national public opinion polls showing between 55 and 60 percent of Americans now favor legalization, and those numbers spreading not just in the coasts, but even the central parts of the country, I think we will see other states like Michigan, maybe Ohio and others, moving forward on legalization as well, with ballot initiatives in 2018 and 2020.

So, there's a massive sense of momentum in this regard. I think Americans have become persuaded by and large that marijuana prohibition makes no sense, that it's better for police to focus on real crime rather than arresting young people for marijuana offenses, and it's better for the government to collect the tax revenue and use it for beneficial purposes instead of letting gangsters and others collect the revenue instead.

So, this will of course put a lot of pressure I believe on the federal government. California's got a lot of Congressmen, and even some of the Republicans who were elected have been good on marijuana reform in the past, so I think it's promising in that area. It's worth pointing out that in Congress, marijuana reform fared relatively well in the last couple of years, notwithstanding the Republican dominance. But what gives me real concern is some of, is really the lesson of Donald Trump and some of the folks around him who are in positions of influence.

I mean, Donald Trump is totally unpredictable on this issue. There was a moment years ago when he said he was interested in legalizing all drugs, but he was also seen using drug war rhetoric during the debates with Hillary Clinton. He did however say pretty clearly I believe during the primaries that he had promised to respect state marijuana laws, and to leave the issue of legalization up to the states. So, he very much needs to be held to that.

What really worries me is some of the folks like Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, who could well be nominated for Attorney General, or for positions on the Supreme Court. Rudy Giuliani is a drug warrior going back to the early '80s. Chris Christie has been highly unpredictable. He's worked cooperatively with us and recently signed a medical marijuana expansion bill, but he's also the one who during the Republican primaries basically told people to smoke their weed now because he planned to enforce federal law to the full extent if he became president.

So I'm very worried about this. I think it's important to recognize that the move made by the White House and the Justice Department in the summer of 2013 really helped to provide a kind of qualified green light for marijuana legalization to proceed, both with the implementation in the states that have legalized, and elsewhere. And, I don't think we're going to have quite the same green light coming out of the new administration. So that's what really concerns me the most.

And secondarily, on Capitol Hill, you know, oftentimes, even when you have a majority of the votes on your side, Republican chairs will oftentimes appear reluctant to approve votes and to allow these things to move forward. So I think the nationa l results of the election of Trump and the sort of one party Republican government that we will be having for the foreseeable future suggest that there are still various ways for the feds to throw a wrench in the works when it comes both to implementing marijuana legalization and to other states doing it.

I'd say the momentum is strong, the wind is at our backs, but it is not a lock as yet given the national political results.

ASHA BANDALE: Thank you so much for that very clear overview, Ethan, and then please, let me turn to Lynn Lyman, our director for California, our state director for California, and please talk about the victory that we had here last night.

LYNN LYMAN: We did something really significant last night in California. And we did it in a huge way. Forty, nearly forty million people now live in a place where they can, adults can legally use, purchase, sell, transport, and consume cannabis legally without the threat of arrest and incarceration.

And what does that mean for California? We know that it means that up to 20,000 fewer people will be arrested this year, and saddled with the lifelong consequences that come with an arrest in this country, certainly in California. More than 6,000 people currently serving time in county jails across the state will be eligible to petition for resentence, and possibly be released. And over a million Californians will have the opportunity to have their record cleared, reduced, and expunged.

And most importantly, children will never again be arrested for a marijuana offense in California. We have protected children 17 and under from the criminal justice system. And we did this in a big way, as I said. It was pretty obvious, pretty immediately when the polls closed in California, that we had won. We, last, we ended up with 56 percent of the vote, taking 37 of 58 counties, and I think most significantly, all the hard work we did in the Inland Empire to try to turn out unlikely voters in some of those swing counties like Riverside, San Bernardino, we won, we won in those counties where marijuana certainly never fared as well in the past.

So, we ran a great campaign, really powered by people on the ground, partners, and what we've done in California is significant for people who care about just the basic elements of justice.

ASHA BANDALE: I'm going to now turn to our senior director for legal affairs, Tamar Todd.

TAMAR TODD: You know, following up on Ethan and Lynn, DPA also was involved in the drafting and providing financial support for a number of the other measures that passed last night. Significantly, as was mentioned, we doubled the number of US states that have decided to end marijuana prohibition within their state, adding California, as Lynn just discussed, in addition to likely Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Those other three state initiatives do not actually contain the type of retroactive sentencing reform that Lynn noted for California, but they are models that we have seen from the other states, from Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Alaska, and in some ways are unique and improve upon those models as well.

Maine's initiative is unique in that it allows, it legalizes a larger amount of marijuana, two and a half ounces, and a larger number of plants for folks to cultivate at home than the other initiatives. It also was the experience of the states that have gone before, and allowed for the licensure of retail social clubs where people will be able to purchase and consume marijuana on the premises in areas that are just for adults 21 and older.

Maine and Massachusetts both brought in the protection not just from arrest but for protection in other areas, such as parental rights. The Massachusetts initiative looks, is forward thinking in terms of how California was and was not just ending prohibition but trying to undo some of the harm that was caused under marijuana prohibition and mandates the regulatory agency in establishing this new legal regulated system to find ways to create inclusion of women and people of color in the licensing of these new businesses.

And Nevada as well very much builds upon Nevada's existing medical marijuana system. They all allow for home cultivation. Nevada's is slightly different in that you're only allowed to cultivate at home if you live, if you don't live within 25 miles of one of the new retail marijuana stores that will be licensed.

There also as we know were four medical initiatives on the ballot, adding three new states, two new states in the south, and I think one thing just to note about these medical initiatives is that they're more meaningful laws when they're passed by the voters typically than what we've seen passed by state legislatures, so there are a number of states who have enacted some form of medical marijuana law that we don't even count in the list of what's an effective law, because they're so narrowly construed in terms of who's allowed access, for the very small number of conditions, and very restrictive in terms of the type that of marijuana -- of marijuana is allowed, that is allowed, that, but when voters enact these measures, they're meaningful.

And, the North Dakota, Florida, and Arkansas measures all allow access to the whole plant for people from a variety of medical conditions. You know, Florida even includes PTSD, as does North Dakota. So they are not just in new areas of the country, but they are very meaningful laws that will allow access to a large number of people and I think as we've seen with these four states that support for access to medical marijuana by sick and suffering people is overwhelming across party and across regions in this country.

DEAN BECKER: Hi, this is Dean. Let me interrupt for just a second. We're going to name that drug by its side effect, but when we come back, we'll hear some questions from reporters around the nation about these changes to the drug law put forward to the good folks at the Drug Policy Alliance. We'll be right back.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, face chomping, lip eating, heart devouring, brain slurping, ecstasy, suicidality, zombieism. Time's up! The answer, according to law enforcement, from some crazy ass chemist somewhere: Mephedrone, otherwise known as bath salts.

Should be noted, besides these laws for recreational and medical marijuana, there were some nuanced laws including this one in Denver. We got NBC Nine out of Denver to fill us in on some details.

KYLE CLARK: Do Colorado a favor, would you? Tell your out of state friends that the new marijuana social use ordinance does not allow people to just light up anywhere anytime. First, Denver won't have hash bars. Not like the ones in Amsterdam. Under Colorado state law it's illegal to allow people to use pot at a pot shop. In theory, you could open a social use business right next door to a pot shop, but they'd have to be separate.

Aside from that, there aren't many restrictions on what kind of business can apply for a marijuana area. You might see pot areas in bars, coffee shops, restaurants, maybe even a book store for deep reading. If the business is going to allow smoking pot, that needs to be out of sight. The law says outdoor smoking at street level can't be visible from sidewalks or streets, or anyplace kids group together.

It's unlikely you'll see a business that allows smoking pot indoors. A cigar bar is about the only kind of business that could even try. But vaping and eating edibles could be allowed indoors. Businesses need to partner with one of roughly 200 official neighborhood organizations in Denver to apply for a license. They can agree on ground rules about hours, alcohol, and more, which means the rules might be a little different at each social pot place that opens.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, Asha Bandale of the Drug Policy Alliance.

ASHA BANDALE: We'd like to open up the call at this point.

STEVE WISHNIA: Hi, this is from Steve from -- Wishnia from the Independent in New York. I have one factual question for Lynn, which is, which county in California was the only one that voted against the initiative? Then I have two more questions. One, how does this effect us in New York state, which I guess would be included in the states that don't have effective medical marijuana laws, and would, and the second one after that would be that, you know, legal marijuana in this country in places like Colorado seems to rest on the Ogden memo, and you know, would an attorney general Rudy Giuliani respect that, or would he say, you know, this is illegal under federal law and I'm not going to let all these people flout federal law.

LYNN LYMAN: Yeah, so, I'll address the first question. We actually lost in, well, we won in 37 of the 58 counties, and trying to do math in my head --

STEVE WISHNIA: Oh, 37 of 58, not 37 of 38.

LYNN LYMAN: Yes, 37 of 58 counties, and so we, we lost in, you know, the more conservative inland areas, but not in southern California, where more of the, you know, Merced County, Madera County, and Kern County, sort of the in the middle of the state, and then we lost in some of the northern parts of the state by a small margin in like Trinity County and Shasta County, but we did win in the other growing counties of Humboldt and Mendocino, so it was kind of split, but, yeah, that was a win in 37 of 58 counties.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Yeah, and I think, with the other two questions, Steve, I think in New York, and it's related to your question, New York is related to what Trump might do with respect to the Cole memorandum, which is the August 2013 memorandum that provided that qualified green light for Colorado and Washington to implement their initiatives. And it's really, I think, a, there's some momentum across the country, and the fact that the neighboring state of Massachusetts is now legal, will be a legalization state, and Maine is close by, and given the public opinion polls in New York show a majority support for legalizing marijuana, given what came out of California, all these suggest that the momentum for moving forward with marijuana legalization in New York is very strong. And our organization, Drug Policy Alliance, is going to be leading that effort. We've already been laying the ground work over the last year or two, with sponsors on both sides.

On the other of this however are two considerations. One is the possibility of, as I said before, a Giuliani, a Christie, somebody like that as attorney general. The possibility that they may repudiate the Cole memorandum, the possibility that they might start to approve a greater number of raids in states that have legalized marijuana and get a lot tougher. All of these are going to have a chilling effect on some of the momentum to move forward. And then the fact that we're being, you know, right now, it looks like the chance, if the Democrats had taken the state senate, they've had the assembly for a long time, if they had taken the state senate, I think our prospects would have also leaned, much -- I would have been much more optimistic about our prospects. To the extent that the Democrats don't control the senate, I think that all sorts of initiatives are possibilities.

TAMAR TODD: Can I add one thing on that Ogden memo piece about sort of the ability of the federal government to interfere, should, you know, there be an attorney general who chooses to take that approach, and that is just to remember that there's really two elements to these laws that have passed. There's the piece that legalizes conduct under state law, and in California reduces penalties across the board under state law, and that piece, given that 99 percent of all marijuana law enforcement happens on the state and local level, there's very, very little that I think the federal government can do that piece. They don't have the ability to take over 99 percent of low level, you know, marijuana arrests and enforcement, and they have no legal basis for challenging or trying to force the states to make a conduct illegal under state law.

The piece where they could really cause, you know, disruption and uncertainty, is around trying to interfere with the regulatory piece, the pieces of the state laws that set up a system to regulate and control marijuana within the state, and how it's produced and how it's sold, and to ensure that that's done safely and responsibly. That's the piece where they, you know, could choose to move off the Ogden memo and come in and start to interfere. Given that the piece about, you know, regulation control and how the industry operates safely and smoothly, it's something that is, you know, a very meaningful piece no matter how you feel about, you know, marijuana and whether it should be legalized, then, I think a lot of the impetus for the approach that the federal government has taken so far is that it's really in everyone's interest, you know, if you legalize marijuana, to allow it to be regulated. You know, that hopefully, wise policy will prevail as well.

TELECONFERENCE HOST: And our next question will come from Bart Schaneman with the Marijuana Business Daily.

BART SCHANEMAN: I was wondering if someone could speak specifically to some of the, you know, perceived opportunities for the business community with the election results and maybe how the results will impact the economics of the industry.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Thank you, Bart. This is Ethan. I mean, I think obviously the market opportunities are going to be extraordinary. I mean, the California population and market by itself is larger than the four states that have already legalized marijuana, you know, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Alaska, and the four states that had legalization on the ballot this year, including Arizona, I think it's 38 point something million to 34 point something million. So California's going to be a massive market, obviously Massachusetts has got six or seven million people. Nevada, you know, has got a substantial population as well. The Florida medical marijuana initiative is going to represent a very major opportunity as well.

I think the real question, you know, for the business community is less about are these opportunities fantastic, amazing, and incredible. The bigger question is the business community going to do everything it possibly can and be effective in terms of pushing the Trump administration to do the right thing here. That's the fundamental question. I mean, so far the industry has not really, you know, it's only beginning to come together. It's not fully distinguished itself in terms of the effectiveness of its advocacy, especially on the national front. There's a host of concerns, not just the 280e tax issue, and the banking issues, but a range of other ones where a lot more is going to need to happen, and that can take the form of direct lobbying and influencing with the federal government. It can also take the form of providing much more substantial support to organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, and others that are deeply engaged in this work.

TELECONFERENCE HOST: And our next question will come from Will Godfrey with The Influence.

WILL GODFREY: I have a question for Ethan. I just wondered what his feeling is about the impact that these victories could have on the international stage, both in terms of other countries potentially following suit, and in terms of the US government's ability to continue promoting drug war policies internationally.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Yeah, and I think, Will, it's, I mean on the one hand, obviously, you know, when I talk to allies and government officials in Mexico, and I ask them, what's it going to take to break open the drug policy debate in your country, the answer overwhelmingly has been, when California legalizes marijuana. And when I say, what about Colorado and Washington, they say that helped. What about Oregon and Alaska, that helped. But California, that's the thing that looms so large in the Mexican imagination. You could do Texas too, they say, that would be great, but they understand that California's the big one.

So I think that this is going to cause a major transformation of the drug policy discussion in Mexico. I think that when President Pena Nieto of Mexico came to speak at the last minute at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs in New York earlier this year, he was driven to do that almost entirely by the prospect of marijuana being legalized in California, and really bringing to a head the question about why is Mexico continuing to spend large amounts of money and lives and resources trying to enforce an unenforceable prohibition, when right across the border California's regulating and taxing this.

I think even beyond Mexico, Will, that the impact of California will be felt throughout Central and Latin America, throughout the Caribbean, and even internationally. But we have to keep in mind that many people around the world don't really know what Colorado or Oregon are, they don't know that Washington is also a state, but almost everybody has heard of California. So I think that this part of what happened yesterday is really going to resonate internationally in a major way.

And the only caveat to all that is once again the Trump administration, and how they're going to deal with this issue, in terms of what will happen internationally, it's going to be a highly hostile relationship with Mexico, a fairly unpredictable and belligerent foreign policy, so really hard to say. Hopefully Trump's kind of, you know, let's the states decide what they want to do, go over to let other countries decide what they want to do, and so that the emphasis will be all on the positive, not the negative.

TELECONFERENCE HOST: Okeh. Next we have a question again from Steven Wishnia

STEVEN WISHNIA: Yeah, how do you think that Trump's racial attitudes might affect this, both he and Giuliani, you know, still think that the five kids who were framed for the rape in Central Park in 1990 are still guilty, even though they were officially exonerated, and, you know, that kind of racial attitude towards crime is what drove, you know, the stop and frisk and the mass arrests in New York under Giuliani and Bloomberg, so, how do you think this might affect his national policy on the issue?

ETHAN NADELMANN: Let me start off on that one and then ask my colleagues to jump in. I think that the impact of that element on marijuana reform is not going to be significant. I think where we're going to see it much more deeply is in terms of the broader drug war rhetoric of Donald Trump, together with Giuliani's record and others during the campaign. I mean, he was reviving a lot of the old drug war rhetoric and the demonization, playing off old images that, you know, both he and others try to raise people's fears, the fears around race, you know, not just kids. I think that the prospects of sentencing reform in the federal government have diminished now, that there will be less enthusiasm for moving forward with that. So, I'm really, I think, the impact on marijuana reform may be not that great. The impact on other drug policy reform, I think, is a really profound concern.

ASHA BANDALE: Yes, thank you, Ethan. Lynn, let me turn to you because this is arguably the most racially justice -- racial justice oriented marijuana law reform ever.

LYNN LYMAN: We have chosen something different in California, and we have not chosen a Donald Trump, and the laws that we chose to govern us and the people that we chose to govern us in this state are people and laws that uphold the values of equality, justice, and fairness. And I think that he's going to have to change his tune if he's going to be able to have any resonance with California voters. You know, we overwhelmingly went against him, and we overwhelmingly went for many progressive candidates and progressive measures, and, you know, I certainly don't want to be part of a political body that is represented by, you know, hate, racism, and sexism, and, you know, and no regard for justice, so I don't really know what to say other than that's not the choice we made here, and that Prop 64 really represents a different kind of choice, and not just one that's about doing things differently moving forward, but is also about looking back at the harms that our policy has caused and beginning to put real things, real tangible pieces in place to repair some of the damage that we've caused, and I guess at this point, we just need to try to kind of hold it steady.

ASHA BANDALE: Thank you so much, and hello Dean.

DEAN BECKER: I want to ask, how far reaching the tentacles of progress can be. My city of Houston just elected a sheriff and a DA who are basically calling for the end of drug war. This movement is expanding exponentially. How fast can we move?

ETHAN NADELMANN: Yeah, I mean, in the races for DA and sheriff there, sort of progressive forces, Democrats were mobilized and funded, including the race involving Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix who was defeated, another one. In those cases, Democrats and progressives prevailed. But I think if you look around the country, they're still overwhelmingly dealing with a law enforcement establishment that is disproportionately Republican, disproportionately white, in ways that I think are going to take a lot of long, hard work to do something about.

DEAN BECKER: Well, that's all we have time for. I urge you to go to the Drug Policy Alliance website, that's, and as always I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

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 Public Policy. Tap dancin' on the edge of an abyss.