11/27/19 Ngaio Bealum

Century of Lies
Ngaio Bealum
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies, a conversation with comedian, activist, and journalist Ngaio Bealum.

Audio file



NOVEMBER 27, 2019

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

DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

There has been a lot happening in the cannabis world the past few weeks. HB 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity (Expungement) Act of 2019 was recently approved by the House Judiciary Committee by an overwhelming 24-10 vote. The Chair of that committee is Representative Gerald Nadler. He is the lead sponsor of this bill and he says that he expects it to go to the floor of the house sometime this session and he expects it to be approved by the house; the senate is another story. To talk about that and other things I have Ngaio Bealum. He is a comedian, musician, writer, actor, juggler, publisher, and activist. According to Wikipedia, he cohosted Cannabis Planet and published West Coast Cannabis Magazine. He writes a column in Sacramento News in Review where he answers questions from readers about marijuana and its politics. He is a very, very funny man. He is also somebody whose opinion I respect greatly and who is one of the smartest people in this marijuana issue. Ngaio Bealum, how the heck are you?

NGAIO BEALUM: After that introduction how could I be anything other than great! That is a lot to live up to! Apparently I have done a lot; I am shocked. Shocked!

DOUG MCVAY: The only comedian to speak truth to power. You have been a leader for a long time and it is time for people to acknowledge that. Let’s start out with the biggest news of the week and that is HB 3884 –

NGAIO BEALUM: This is big news, Doug!

DOUG MCVAY: The House Judiciary Committee approved a marijuana legalization measure by a vote of 24-10. The chair of the committee, Gerald Nadler is the lead sponsor. When he says he expects this to go to the floor of the house while I am not a gambling person, you could probably put money on that. What do you think?

NGAIO BEALUM: I am not holding my bald head. How many times is something going to get somewhere and then nothing happens? Even if it does get through the House, which it does stand a good chance which is a good first step but I don’t think that “Moscow Mitch McConnell” and all of his cronies – they are already holding up approximately 200 bills that have come from the House that Mitch has refused to put on the Senate floor; so why would they put this bill on the floor? You would think that the Republicans would see that this is in their best interest according to the latest (UNINTELLIGIBLE) poll. 67% of Americans think that cannabis should be legal now but I am pretty sure they have other things on their plate of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You thought that was funny, didn’t you? Because that is a Russian joke.


DOUG MCVAY: I agree with you wholeheartedly and in fact it is worth pointing out that there is a version of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity (Expungement) Act (The MORE Act) is in the Senate already in a sense as it is sponsored by Senator Kamala Harris. Nothing has happened with it, and you are probably right that nothing is going to happen. Remember a couple of years ago they were talking a good game and Dana Rohrabacher was talking himself blue in the face about how Republicans secretly believe in all of this stuff.

NGAIO BEALUM: That guy also has problems. The challenge I think is on the list of priorities the Republicans want to get done, cannabis legalization is not high on that list. First of all private prison industry loves cannabis crimes and secondly they have bigger things to worry about. They have to prop up a failing President and a bunch of other things. If they were to decriminalize and reschedule cannabis federally I think it would be a big feather in their little Republican caps and I think it would bring around some poor, misguided people who don’t have any other reason to support Trump. They would all be saying that Trump legalized weed blah, blah, blah. It would be a good thing for them to do but when was the last time Republicans did a good thing?

DOUG MCVAY: The sound of crickets in response to that question. They don’t need to do anything. How many years have we seen this stuff about his secret plan to legalize, or that they are secretly behind us. No more secrets. Be public and vote yes. Simple.

NGAIO BEALUM: Yes. It is not that big of a challenge. I don’t think we are going to see any legalization until and unless we see a sweeping change in the Senate and the Presidency. If we get some Democrats, Progressives, or some “Greens”, or social democrats in there we maybe have a better chance but as it stands now I am not optimistic. I am not the young idealist I was in 1992 when we thought Bill Clinton was going to legalize weed, which he could have done in ’96. Obama could have rescheduled it in 2008 and 2012. There are billions of dollars to be made now and we know Republicans love billions of dollars but if they can’t really control it or get their billions of dollars first I don’t see how interested they would be in it. They already get billions of dollars from the private prison industry by locking people up, from using drug prisoners as a form of legalized slavery. I know I sound like a crazy Leftist and progressive right now and I am most of the time, but these are the bigger issues. I want to be excited about this first step and that it is going to pass but it is not. It is not. If it does, I will buy weed for everybody, but as it stands right now I am not optimistic.

DOUG MCVAY: I have to agree. It is dead in the water once it gets across to the Senate. I hope to God it actually does pass the House –

NGAIO BEALUM: If it even gets out of the House.

DOUG MCVAY: You don’t think it will?

NGAIO BEALUM: I don’t know. There are too many people who get too much money from weed being illegal. You can make more money from weed being legal but you would have to set up new revenue streams and these guys already have a thing happening so why would they even want to change it? It is not affecting them. Right? Rich white kids don’t go to jail for weed so it is not going to bother any of those guys.

DOUG MCVAY: You have a good point. Like I said, he is a smart man! On the other hand, you have also got the legal weed industry that is doing its own campaign contributions. Some of these companies’ stock values are horribly inflated. They are not worth even a fraction of what –

NGAIO BEALUM: Don’t get me started on those guys! I am glad they are spending money to lobby and things of that nature but those guys also have problems. An algorithm and five million dollars behind you doesn’t mean you know anything about the cannabis industry, cannabis culture, or even how to grow good cannabis. You would think that would be the first step would be to have good weed but these guys don’t seem to understand that.

DOUG MCVAY: That leads me to the next question which is about the California industry. There have been a wave of layoffs in the industry over the past couple of months by some big companies like FloCanna, Eaze, and MedMen have all seen layoffs. Some are saying that this is a sign that this industry is in trouble and overregulated while others are more skeptical. People like myself are saying that this is nothing but hypocrisy, cost cutting, and an attempt to boost profits so that the owners can make more money. Maybe during the next investment wave investors will think that because they fired a bunch of people they must be a good company so they want to pour a few million dollars in to that weed business.

NGAIO BEALUM: I think there are a lot of different factors here. First of all I would like to say that I feel bad for all of the people at FloCanna and some of the cats at Jedi Extracts because those two companies seemed to have the right idea and they have a decent amount of hippies on their staff so they seem to be wanting to do the right things. A lot of these other guys just show up with money and think that they are going to jump in the middle and take over everybody creating a Weedopoly and that is not how it goes.
Cannabis is decentralized due to its very nature even while federally illegal, it has been a decentralized industry forever so to think that you can just come in and take it over – have you ever hung out with hippies? Do you know how obstinate these people are? Do you know how headstrong hippies are? You can’t do that, especially if you are going to overregulate. California has overregulated and overtaxed the industry. They are raising the taxes again in 2020, which is not helping anyone in the legal regulated market. If it is cheaper to buy it from the black market, why not buy it from the black market? I know you could point to the vape crisis with regard to the unregulated, untested products causing severe health problems and that is true but it is different with flower. If slightly bad grown weed was going to kill you; we would all be dead. Weed is still weed and you can still find underground organic, fantastic weed everywhere for much cheaper than you can get in the club, even if the price is the same the weed club is going to add another 20-30% in taxes so now your eighth that was forty bucks is now sixty bucks. What are you going to do if you are working in this economy? If you have two minimum wage jobs saving twenty bucks is important to you and you need a little weed to get through your day sometimes because people can stress you out. I think they are going about it all wrong. I feel like Oregon had the right idea where they didn’t overregulate and they didn’t overtax. I felt bad for the growers because the prices dropped precipitously but also pushed out the weed man because the weed man is not going to be cheaper than the club. The club is going to sell you a joint for a dollar and an eighth for fifteen bucks – and it’s pretty good weed for that fifteen bucks. The growers don’t make what they used to make but the industry is thriving out there as opposed to what is happening in California. 70% of California cities and counties still prohibit weed businesses. You can’t always find a weed club if you are in Modesto, or Fresno of some of these other towns so I don’t know how they expect the market to grow if access is not opened up.

DOUG MCVAY: I live in Oregon so I can only say that you are absolutely right. It is so much nicer to live in Oregon.

NGAIO BEALUM: One of the coolest things about Oklahoma’s medical cannabis law is that they said that cities and counties could not prohibit cannabis cultivation and cannabis businesses. They have got to figure out a way to work with everybody. It is a weird analogy but it’s like a strip club. You gotta have a strip club. If the state allows strip clubs; cities can’t prohibit it. It is a first amendment thing, an access thing, and a freedom and liberty thing. I think California could not have messed it up any more than if they had actually tried to mess it up.

DOUG MCVAY: I don’t know. I give your legislators more credit than that. I think they could have easily screwed it up even worse.

NGAIO BEALUM: I don’t know if they could’ve because they are going about it the wrong way. They don’t think that they are making the money they thought they were going to make so they raised the taxes and said it was to keep up with inflation, but really it is not. They are going to kill the golden goose. The underground scene is thriving out here. Instead of what we used to call Farmer’s Markets, now they are called Sessions. There are so many different sessions you can go if you still have your medical letter of recommendation you can find a session on Instagram probably a half hour from your house. You can drive out and buy all the unregulated weed you want for super cheap and you can talk to the grower and the guys who have it. It is much more cannabis culture centered vibe than you get in a lot of these sterile clubs where the people working there don’t even know anything about weed, they are all brand new and they just see it as a business and not a lifestyle which I guess is cool but even the guy who runs the liquor store or book store; they know something about books and liquor. These cats only know money, units, market share, and disruption but they don’t have a fundamental understanding. I feel like Obi Wan Kanobi – you perceive the force as the spoon perceives the taste of food. (LAUGHTER).

DOUG MCVAY: Just to remind folks, you are listening to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay and my guest here with me on Skype is the Jedi master of weed, the connoisseur Mr. Ngaio Bealum. He is an activist, writer, and professional comedian. One of the things that you have been involved with over the last few years is the Minority Cannabis Business Association. You are outspoken on issues involving equity and social justice within the cannabis industry and in general. How are things shaping up? Are we talking a good game and falling short? Is anything actually happening?

NGAIO BEALUM: I have to smoke a joint before I talk to you. You are just pressing all of my buttons today, man. (LAUGHTER). I feel like Oakland is the only place that is doing it kind of right in the sense that they have opened up some minority clubs, their Equity Program seems to be proceeding at a pace. A lot of these other places up here in Sacramento are just now getting their Equity Program going even though they announced it two years ago but it is almost too late. They are not going to allow too many more licenses and it is still going to cost a person $200,000 to get in the game. There are no black owned clubs up here and there are very few in San Francisco and only a couple in Los Angeles if there are any at all. Last time I was there I think there was one or two but I don’t know if they have shut down. I don’t feel like the Equity Programs are doing what they are supposed to do and I don’t know if that is by design. They say never look for conspiracy when you can find incompetence. So I am not sure what the whole plan is on that but I wish it was better. I wish people would be more proactive about it. Up here in Sacramento we have an FBI probe, Ukrainian money, accusations of bribery and money laundering. Things happen when big money gets involved. People look at clubs and think that is an easy way to make a million dollars a year. Out of 30 Sacramento clubs they grossed about $140,000,000 in gross sales last year. When you look at that it is about 5,000,000 per club and think that is a pretty good deal, but that is not all profit. I just wish it would be better and I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know how to change human nature. Greed is the one god that can never be appeased or even sated. It is the whole nature of greed worship.

DOUG MCVAY: I was doing an interview not long ago with Professor John Pfaff from Fordham Law School and we were talking about mass incarceration in prison and he was telling me how his thinking on this has evolved. Mass incarceration is the problem but the root of that is this culture of mass punishment. It’s not just about incarceration it is all the rest of it. If you fall short they feel they must smack you down. It is not just a question of changing the policy it is a question of changing the mindset that is really pushing this stuff.

NGAIO BEALUM: Yeah. It is the same kind of thing and I don’t know what can be done about changing human nature. When it comes to prison reform some of the Scandinavian countries seem to have a better idea. It should be about rehabilitation and reforming people to help them become productive tax paying members of society. If you have a private prison it is in your best interest to create more criminals so why would you want to help someone not be a criminal as that will just eat in to your profit. You want them to come back to jail; you want them to get out and come back six months later. They already know the routine. You don’t want to never see them again. You want to see them as often as possible. That is just one of those things when it comes to prison reform. I think private prisons should be abolished; it’s a farce and a scam.

DOUG MCVAY: And if it’s a private prison, it is also the private companies that are vendors to the publicly owned prisons. It’s the prison guards themselves! In California for instance they even have a union –

NGAIO BEALUM: That’s right. So powerful!

DOUG MCVAY: People get enough of my nasal whine and stammer, it is you that we want to hear from. You have a new writing gig that a little bird told me about. Why don’t you tell my listeners what you are doing these days/

NGAIO BEALUM: Yes, I am the new Cannabis Equity writer for Emerald Media. They have a print magazine as well as a really nice website. I am also starting a new podcast that should be premiering in January called Equally High, which will focus on social justice, social equality, and cannabis equity issues throughout the nation. We will be interviewing a lot of people and tell their stories and see what can be done. We will discuss the successes and failures and see what can be done to make the world a better place. I got in to cannabis activism first because I really like weed in general. I like the way it tastes, the way it smells, the way it’s grown. I also see cannabis activism as a social justice issue and that was one of the things that I like about weed activism – you are striking go on all kinds of fronts. Relegalize weed and that is a blow for personal freedom, and personal responsibility. It helps cops be less racist if they can’t just pull over black and brown kids because they smell weed or because they think that they have weed in their possession. They can’t just harass people for that anymore. These are all good first steps but we have to take it further because the same people who were making money from throwing us in jail are now making money from selling us weed and that is not fair to the people who used to have good jobs. You probably knew a cat or two that was the “weedman”, and I say weedman as a gender neutral term, I spell it with an ‘M’, so it’s W-E-E-D-M-A-N. If you spell it with a ‘Y’, you are probably not a weedman who had to get a job in a dispensary after everything got legalized and set in because they couldn’t make the money that they used to; at least in Oregon. In California, the weedman is still doing alright. We just want it to be better and these guys just can’t seem to get it together and I don’t think that they really listen to anyone who knows. Maybe they do listen to those guys, I don’t know. I have been to too many city council meetings where people make logical, thought out, persuasive arguments that make great sense and then they are completely ignored so what can you do about that? I used to be much more idealist; they say that a cynic is a lapsed idealist. They say that the cynic is a disappointed idealist and I think I am entering in to that phase in my career.

DOUG MCVAY: I know what you mean exactly but we can’t quit.

NGAIO BEALUM: There is nothing to do but continue to fight against it. I am not giving up, my eyes are just more open about it.

DOUG MCVAY: Do you remember P.D.Q Bach and Professor Peter Schickele? He had a saying that is practically my motto and should be my mantra and that is that ideas are like pollen, once they are in the air you never know who is going to sneeze.

NGAIO BEALUM: Fair enough. Fair enough. This is true.

DOUG MCVAY: That is why it is so exciting to me at least that you are going to be doing this podcast and that you are working on this equity stuff.

NGAIO BEALUM: Good ideas are also like pollen because some people are just allergic to them.

DOUG MCVAY: You do have a point. I was in debate for the longest time and I never really figured it out until recently that you are not really going to end up convincing the person on the other side; they are not ever going to just say that you were right and they were wrong all of this time. It is a competitive thing and they view it that way so they are just not going to do that but the judge – that is the person that you are trying to convince. In policy what we are trying to convince is the majority of folks who really haven’t given it a thought and don’t have a feeling one way or the other. If they are forced to they may make up their minds and it might be a knee jerk reaction in the wrong way but if we can keep putting out good ideas and calling people out for being jerks. I will never apologize for that. I think we need to continue trying to promote people to just be better. I think eventually it is going to work.

I was on the phone with the reporter right before Elvy Musikka got her federal marijuana card and became the third person in the country to legally receive medical pot so I have a different perspective on progress.

NGAIO BEALUM: We have come a long way. I can walk around California now with an ounce of weed in my pocket standing in line at the Starbuck’s with cops walking in and my blood pressure does not change. I was sitting on the corner smoking a joint on K and 8th Street the other day and two sheriffs walked by and one of them just nodded at me. It was great! They are also letting people out of jail and that is great. These are all great steps but we can definitely do more and people can definitely do better. This is what I am saying.

DOUG MCVAY: As long as you are out there encouraging it; it will happen. Again, my guest on today’s show has been Ngaio Bealum, he is a comedian, activist, writer, and many other things. We are coming up to the end of the half hour so I have to ask you if you have any closing thoughts and can you please give me all of your social media sites where people can find out where you are and what you are up to. You also perform a lot so I have to ask you what you have going on with your performances?

NGAIO BEALUM: I do. When does this show go on the air?

DOUG MCVAY: This show will be first broadcast right before Thanksgiving on my birthday.

NGAIO BEALUM: Okay. Happy birthday, Doug.

DOUG MCVAY: Well thank you very much.

NGAIO BEALUM: December 1st I will be performing at A Simple Bar, located at 3256 Cahuenga Blvd W, Los Angeles, CA 90068. It is a free show, come on out. You can follow me on all the social media at: ngaio420 on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. You can read my articles in the Sac News in Review and Emerald Media. I am the 3rd most popular Ngaio in the world so you can just Google me. I have to get my website up, I have been lazy. You can also listen to my latest album, “Weedier and Sexier”, you can stream it on all of the popular streaming platforms.

DOUG MCVAY: One of my favorite comedians, activist, and writer and a good friend. It is such a pleasure to have you on the show. Happy holidays to you.

NGAIO BEALUM: Always a pleasure. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well, Mr. McVay.

That was my interview with Ngaio Bealum. He is a comedian, activist, journalist and good friend. If you have a chance to see him live, do it! That is it for this week. I want to thank you so much for joining us.

You have been listening to Century of Lies we are a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. On the web at I have been your host, Doug McVay, editor of The Executive Producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available by podcast, the URL’s to subscribe are on the network homepage at

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts has a Facebook page, too, give it a like. Share it with friends. Remember, knowledge is power. We will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed War on Drugs. For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long.

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

01/23/19 Ngaio Bealum

Century of Lies
Ngaio Bealum

This week on Century of Lies, I'm joined by Ngaio Bealum as we discuss marijuana in California and his new YouTube show; we hear from UNODC's Angela Me as she addresses the Commission on Narcotic Drugs; and we hear the results from the 2018 Monitoring the Future Survey of young people.

Audio file



JANUARY 23, 2019

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

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

Well, coming up later in the show, we're going to hear my interview with Ngaio Bealum, a comedian, an activist, a journalist, and a genius. A genius. A genius, remember that word. That will be coming up later in the show.

We're also going to hear some words from Angela Me, she is the chief of the UNODC Research and Trend Analysis Branch, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. She spoke at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs intersessional meeting, which occurred on January Sixteenth.

But first, on December Eighteenth, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Institute for Social Research released the results of the 2018 Monitoring the Future Survey. They held a news conference to discuss those results, so we're going to hear some parts of that now.

The speakers will include Richard Miech, PhD, he's Principal Investigator at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan; Lloyd Johnston, PhD, he's the Angus Campbell Collegiate Research Professor, the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan; and the first speaker, the next voice you hear, will be that of Nora Volkow, MD. She is the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

NORA VOLKOW, MD: I’d like to start with good news, which is actually we are continuing to see some of the lowest rates of illicit substance use among teenagers in our country as well as some of the lowest rates of licit substance use, that is nicotine and alcohol, among teenagers.

And some of those reductions are particularly dramatic in the light of the fact that we are amidst an opioid crisis where the use and consumption of opioids is continuing to increase and yet we’re seeing some of the lowest rates of consumption of prescription opioids as well as heroin that we have seen since the survey was initiated. So that’s quite important.

Item number two though is what are the areas of concern, and you will hear further from the principle investigators the main area of concern is how rapidly teenagers have embraced the use of vaping devices to actually administer different types of drugs.

And some of these increases are actually quite dramatic. Whereas in 2017 most of the teenagers reported that they were vaping for the use of just the flavor, this year we see that most of the teenagers are reporting that they are using of nicotine.

So how large are these increases? Well in some instances they are actually more than double the -- or more than double actually the consumption of substances through these devices.

We are seeing teenagers reporting to operators that 30 percent of them in the past year have vaped nicotine which is of course of great concern, due to the fact that many of the advances that have been done towards decreasing smoking among teenagers may now be --- there is concern that some of them may be lost, as teenagers become addicted to nicotine, they may then transition into combustible tobacco.

Similarly these vaping devices are -- there’s been increased use for the consumption of 9-THC, which is the active ingredient of marijuana. So more teenagers are seeing -- though not as dramatic as for nicotine but 30 percent increases in consumption of cannabis through these devices. And this is a new technology that may in the future also be utilized to administer other types of drugs.

And then the third notable aspect about -- in this new data is that despite also significant increases in marijuana consumption across all ages, we’re not seeing it in adolescents. And in fact the prevalence rate of smoking marijuana has been very, very stable, and this year for regular marijuana is close to 6 percent. And it has been at that level for the past four or five years.

So even though the rest of the illicit substances are going down, we’re not seeing decreases in marijuana, but we are not seeing increases. And so there is something going on that appears to be protecting teenagers against the use of drugs, which brings me to my last point.

I mentioned that it was notable that we are seeing very low rates of opioid prescription and heroin use among teenagers. Yet if we look at the epidemiology of the utilization of these drugs in young adults, we see the highest rates of opioid utilization among those that are 18 to 24 years of age.

So we see this transition of where there’s a very low rate of use of opioids among teenagers. And then as they transition into young adulthood, those rates goes up, highlighting the transition from adolescence into young adulthood as one of vulnerability for opioid experimentation, misuse and also unfortunately overdoses.

So there is good news. There are worrisome news with the vaping that you will hear more details. And then there’s the recognition that while there may be something that is providing resilience on teenagers, this appears to be lost as they transition into young adulthood.

RICHARD MIECH, PHD: So perhaps the main finding this year has been the startling increase in nicotine vaping. So as Nora mentioned it’s doubled in 12th grade from 11 percent to 21 percent. So that may not mean much to many people, so there’s other ways to look at that same increase.

One way to look at it is that Monitoring the Future has been in business for 43 years -- 44 years, excuse me. We’ve reported increases for 43 of those years. We couldn’t report an increase the first year because there was no comparison year.

We have reported more than a thousand increases over the past 43 years on the various drugs that we survey. And this is by far the largest we’ve ever seen out of these thousand increases that we've reported for past 30-day use. In fact, the second largest increase was only half as large as what we saw in nicotine vaping this year.

The second largest increase was in marijuana use from 1975 to 1976. So this is a really big increase. It’s -- well, it’s historic shift actually. It’s one of the largest we’ve ever seen in the past 43 years. So I wanted to emphasize the size, the magnitude of this increase.

Also, we found that -- as Nora pointed out -- there was also a significant increase in marijuana vaping. So to date, marijuana vaping has been pretty rare. Maybe 4 or 5 percent of adolescents report that they did that in the past 30 days.

But that increased 50 percent in 10th grade and 12th grade to about 7 percent, and 8th grade is a little bit smaller. And it’s part of a general pattern where pretty much all illegal drug use among adolescents has been increasing or staying steady except if you can vape it. Anything that can be vaped -- it doesn’t matter -- it goes up.

So nicotine vaping went up. Marijuana vaping went up. We asked kids if they vaped just flavoring. That went up too. So something about this delivery device of vaping seems to really appeal to kids. Of course, there’s the flavors I think are a large part of that, as well the concealibility.

Some of these vaping devices are shaped like flash drives and can be kept in your pocket. And you just suck on them and they start up. There’s no on and off switch. They’re very convenient. You can just use them whenever you want.

So given the ease and the concealibility and the flavors, these all seem to be contributing to great popularity of vaping among adolescents today.

LLOYD JOHNSTON, PHD: As you heard from Professor Miech, the key finding this year is in vaping. But there’s been some other interesting things going on. Doctor Volkow has alluded to some of those. I want to go into them a little bit.

One is that we have seen in the -- since the mid '90s a dramatic decline in cigarette smoking by adolescents. Thirty-day prevalence and daily prevalence of smoking in all three grades is down by 80 to 90 percent.

That means that we’re going to have cohorts of young people who will have longer lives, less disease, and it’s going to hopefully transfer to future cohorts that are coming through.

Because this has happened so incrementally, I’m not sure that really the public knows about this. But we’ve made so much progress on cigarettes. Of course, that’s one of the reasons we’re concerned about vaping, because it has the potential to reverse that tremendous accomplishment.

We know that all other forms of tobacco that we’re tracking – and there are many – have edged lower this year. Most of them are down significantly over recent years but not in 2018.

But despite this, there was a considerable increase in the proportion of 12th graders who were using nicotine in the past 30 days. And that’s up as Doctor Volkow mentioned about five percentage points. So that’s almost all due to the vaping because the other drug -- the tobacco products are all in decline.

DOUG MCVAY: That was part of a news conference announcing the results of the 2018 Monitoring the Future Survey.

You just heard Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse; Richard Miech, PhD, principal investigator at the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan; and Lloyd Johnston, PhD, Angus Campbell Collegiate Research Professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

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

Now, from the national to the international, let's go to Angela Me. She's the chief of the UNODC Research and Trend Analysis Branch, stationed in Vienna, Austria. She was speaking at a Commission on Narcotic Drugs intersessional meeting January Sixteenth.

The CND held a series of meetings that week. The only part of that which was webcast was the meeting on January Sixteenth. Again, those are only webcast live, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs works hard to maintain the opacity of the international drug control apparatus, and as a result, there is no archive of Commission on Narcotic Drugs meetings. None of their proceedings.

The 62nd annual session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs is coming up in March. This set of intersessional meetings were to prepare for what's coming up in March. Here's Angela Me.

ANGELA ME: Thank you. Yes, very short, I have just three, maybe, updates, because I'm not sure if any of you has any other questions, or whatever you would like to know or discuss.

So, one, just an update on where we are with the work on responding to the CND resolution in reviewing the existing data collection. So, we are planning on July 8 to 10, July, an expert consultation to follow the expert consultation that we had last year.

Basically, the idea is to invite national experts to now take their recommendations, that were made in the first expert consultation, and to see how completely these recommendations could translate in terms of the concrete capacity building activities that were, the expert consultation also was, had kind of a two main agenda item.

One was on the capacity building, and the other one on their review, and, so to have in preparation of that expert consultation, we were working, UNODC, to prepare and draft that on these two different agenda items, that reflects, basically, take on board and implement the recommendations made at the first expert consultation.

The other, just, piece of information is that, at UNODC we have submitted a paper to the UN statistical commission on drug statistics, and the item should be for discussion at the statistical commission. The paper should be out soon after the editing in the UN statistical commission website.

But basically, it's, we, in the paper, we recall all what happened in Vienna, in the CND. We mention that, you know, importance of receiving 2018, and basically is for the statistical commission to discuss how the statistical commission can support the CND with their statistical expertise on addressing the, both the CND resolution and the, that then was also reflected in the General Assembly resolution on how to go about.

For example, one of the suggestions is that in the expert consultation that we are going to have in July, whether the statistical commission was, you know, the experts, national experts, from the statistical commission, would like also to be included again to benefit from the statistical expertise.

The other piece of information is that, as you know, we have heard a lot, also many countries discussing the relevance of SDG [Sustainable Development Goals] Indicators for the drugs, and so what we have been doing for the, from UNODC, is to try and promote that agencies that collect the SDG, they are responsible for the reporting of, the global reporting of SDG indicators that are relevant to drug use.

For example, you know, issues like employment, education, would be good, that they could disaggregate the data also by drug use. Because, so, this, to complement also the work that we're doing with ARQ, because, in the spirit of many member states of course are saying that we should avoid duplication in data reporting, et cetera.

We're not going, now, in UNODC now, to start collecting indicators on employment, or educational attainment, or those kinds of things, because these are the responsibility of other agencies.

So, the group that oversees all the global reporting of SDG indicators has a subgroup on disaggregation, and they have recently made a call to agencies to submit proposals for considering the disaggregation of SDG indicators.

So, as UNODC, we have submitted a proposal for this group that, for certain SDG indicators that are relevant for the drug problem, that they can consider the disaggregation of, you know, people, drug -- that use drugs, or they don't use drugs, so that to have this complementary data collection system within the UN, that also deals with drugs.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Angela Me, director of research at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. She was speaking at an intersessional meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The CND holds its next annual session March 18 through 22 of this year.

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

Earlier this week, I had a chance to speak with my friend Ngaio Bealum, the comedian, the journalist, and the genius -- the genius, the word is genius, you'll understand. Just -- let's just hear that interview.

And, so I can say that I'm on the line now with my good friend, the comedian, the writer, the genius, the activist, and all that good stuff --

NGAIO BEALUM: The jankiest?

DOUG MCVAY: Never. Never, never, never.

NGAIO BEALUM: I'm here with the jankiest, Ngaio Bealum. The Dank Diplomat. The Weed Whisperer. I got all kinds of nicknames these days.

DOUG MCVAY: You've got all that stuff, and you're, you know, an activist as well as being an entertainer, as well as being a celeb, a, well, you're just a cool person. And --

NGAIO BEALUM: Weed-lebrity. I'm well known.

DOUG MCVAY: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And a political activist and a thinker, too. People tend to forget that some of the best comedians are, you know, have a political side, a political edge.

NGAIO BEALUM: Well, it's -- the court jester gets away with saying all kinds of crazy s*** and couches it in a joke.

DOUG MCVAY: Absolutely, absolutely. The comedian, the jester, those are the people who can speak truth to power, and that's one of the reasons for getting someone like you on, because we need people to speak truth once in a while.

NGAIO BEALUM: Well, let's see how it goes.

DOUG MCVAY: Ay, hey.

NGAIO BEALUM: I will try to be truthful.

DOUG MCVAY: So I have -- I've got you on the line, I've got to ask just a few things. Obviously California's marijuana is the big news topic. You've got the newest final set of regulations that have come out from the state, replacing the last set of final regulations that had come out from the state, and, which I think replaced the one before that.

You've got counties all over where people can't get weed, you've got places where -- what's going on down there?

NGAIO BEALUM: You know, it's just one of those things, where the people who hate weed are always going to hate weed, at least for now. It takes a long time, I think, to fight more than almost a hundred years of propaganda. Right?

So, we have dry counties and wet counties. It's like booze, in some ways, but the challenge is, of course, people who had businesses under Prop 215, under the medical marijuana law, where maybe you could have a business in Fresno, you know, you could still grow weed in Modesto, or Placerville, and still have a business.

Those guys are kind ass-out right now. Right? Because you can't get a license from that county, or from that city, and there's, I think last time I read something it was like 65, 75 percent of the counties in California allow any sort of cannabis business. And so that's creating a lot of challenges for the people who have been in the game for a long time, and aren't getting a chance to take advantage.

Also, let's see if I can remember what I was going to say, the state is trying to take steps, right, so they're allowing delivery, even in counties and cities where cannabis businesses aren't allowed. If you're in Oakland or Alameda County, and you want to deliver out to Contra Costa County, that's fine.

Contra Costa County is trying to fight that, but, that's okeh, and that's good, because it doesn't make any sense. A friend of mine said once, you know, when you create regulations for cannabis, you're only creating regulations for legal cannabis. You're not doing jack-all about the underground market, or the gray market, or as I like to call it now, the traditional market.

And so if California is serious about having, just, people just buy weed from clubs and from delivery services, and from dispensaries, then they're going to have to do more to create more opportunities for the old school growers, create lower prices, create lower taxes.

The taxes on weed up here are 25, thirty percent. The weedman's not charging you tax. Right? You can get weed from the weed man for thirty, forty dollars an eighth, no taxes, and when you go to the club it's forty, fifty dollars an eighth plus another twenty percent tax.

And so they're kind of shooting themselves in the foot. You know, the challenge, of course, is you maybe don't want to end up like Oregon, where you can buy an ounce of weed for forty dollars, which is really, really cheap, and it makes it harder for the smaller growers to compete.

I mean, what was it, they have a million pounds of weed left over from last year, that they haven't had a chance to finish, or nobody's going to get, really, a chance to smoke, in Oregon? And that's a different -- I mean, but, I would prefer that. I would prefer more of a free for all, and everybody getting a chance to get into the business, then this prohibition through over-regulation, which is what's happening in California.

DOUG MCVAY: For what it's worth, the forty dollar ounces in Oregon, they're not that good. I mean, if you want decent weed, you still are going to have to pay a couple hundred, at any of these shops. Having said that --

NGAIO BEALUM: As opposed to five hundred dollars an ounce in California.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, exactly, it's -- yeah, it's only a couple hundred.

NGAIO BEALUM: You're still -- listen, it's probably cheaper for me to drive to Oregon and buy a s***-ton of weed, and come back and smoke it, than to buy weed at a dispensary in California, and I live seven hours, or six hours and change, from the Oregon border.

DOUG MCVAY: Far be it from me to encourage you to violate a federal law by crossing state lines.

NGAIO BEALUM: I would never, I would never violate a federal law by crossing a state line with cannabis.

DOUG MCVAY: Heavens no. Heavens no, heavens no, that's back in the old days.

NGAIO BEALUM: Heaven -- god forfend, sir.

DOUG MCVAY: We were just talking about that, this thing, on Twitter, there's the whole thing, Aaron Sorkin being -- he got, you know, guy gets busted back in 2001 carrying shrooms and ecstasy in his carry-on bag, and it's like, dude, no one was getting searched, I mean, we didn't have body scanners. Small amounts, just body pack it, for god's sake. Nobody ever got busted, people do stuff like that.


DOUG MCVAY: It's either special stupid, or just --

NGAIO BEALUM: You do just what you do. I mean, listen, I know people, I carried weed. I mean, not like a pound and a half, or an ounce, or whatever. But a personal amount of weed at the airport, they're not going to sweat you. Now, a personal amount of mushrooms and ecstasy, those are felonies. Those aren't misdemeanors. It's a whole different ball of wax.

DOUG MCVAY: But back in --

NGAIO BEALUM: Right? Be careful what laws you're breaking.

DOUG MCVAY: Oh absolutely. Thing is, back in the, before the body scanner days, body packing was, I mean, you know, just plastic -- as long as you, it -- it was going to smell like crotch, but, you know.

NGAIO BEALUM: I used to have a whole set of jokes about, who was it? It was Damon Stoudamire, former Portland Trailblazer, got arrested in Arizona for wrapping his weed in foil when he went through the metal detector. And I was like, man, you've got to be dumb. It's a metal detector. The whole point of it is to detect metal. It wasn't a weed detector. They didn't detect the weed. They detected the metal you had it wrapped in.

Everybody knows, you put it in a plastic bag, tuck it under your junk, and you get on the plane. It's a very simple concept.

DOUG MCVAY: You know? Exactly. Exactly.

NGAIO BEALUM: Exactly. Exactly. The old [inaudible] and fly.

DOUG MCVAY: Yeah, the old days. Well, I mean, well, so. Okeh, there's California out of the way. You've got stuff to get to, so I'm going to ask you the more important part right now. Tell me, you've got a new show on YouTube. What's going on?

NGAIO BEALUM: We just started a new show on YouTube, me and my good friend Olivia Monahan. It's called Stay High, and every week we're going to bring you different strain reviews, and we'll probably do a few dab reviews or two as well.

And we'll show off some fancy gear, and all that good stuff. And each episode's only like four minutes and twenty seconds long, or something like that, so it's really easy, and fun to watch.

And, we stare at the weed, we smell it, discuss flavor profiles, and taste and effects. And it's very funny, and it's a good time, and you can find one on my YouTube channel right now, ngaio420, you can find the pilot we shot.

And we're shooting a bunch more today, and so we're going to start releasing them once a week in February. We'll get them all chopped and screwed, as they say.

DOUG MCVAY: Very cool. I saw the first, I saw your first one, the pilot, and it's great, and I'm looking forward to the -- yeah, now, you had the Cooking On High, which --


DOUG MCVAY: Which was the Netflix show.


DOUG MCVAY: And, I don't know. I just, I -- how can I say this? Ditch the pretty boy. Okeh? I mean, host -- look, he could read his lines fine off the autocue, but, eh. Put you in as host. Put you in as host, have people banter.

NGAIO BEALUM: I'm not the producer or the director of that show.

DOUG MCVAY: Then this is for -- then I'm speaking to the producer and the director: Put Ngaio in as host, get rid of the pretty boy, this is not, I mean, no, you just, you're just missing the point with, they're just missing it. They're just missing -- yeah. That's. Want a good show? Put you in as host. Boom.

NGAIO BEALUM: Thank you. Thank you very much.

DOUG MCVAY: That's just -- that wasn't, I'm not even at the compliment stage yet, that's just common sense. My god.

NGAIO BEALUM: Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: Nah, you need somebody who knows what they're talking about, and is interesting and lively, as opposed to, you know, male models, eh. God, that's so 2005.

NGAIO BEALUM: It's produced in LA. These things happen.

DOUG MCVAY: Oh, that's true. Everything is 2005 in LA.


DOUG MCVAY: So, you've got some shows to go and produce, you've got some acting to do.

NGAIO BEALUM: Taping shows right now, I've got to get my outfits and the weed together, and we're going to be doing that all day today, shoot like four episodes, so I expect to be pretty tired around seven o'clock tonight. And, but feeling pretty good.

DOUG MCVAY: Very cool.

NGAIO BEALUM: Yeah, so, everybody watch that. Follow me on all the social medias, @Ngaio420 is the handle, Ngaio420, and if you live in California, I've got a new line of pre-rolls coming out in about a month.

DOUG MCVAY: Most excellent. Any closing thoughts for the listeners?

NGAIO BEALUM: I would quote Bill and Ted when I say be excellent to each other, and, I would also like to say don't let the bastards get you down. And I would also like to say, it is my fervent wish and hope that the cannabis growers of Oregon get to sell their excess weed to Germany and Canada.

DOUG MCVAY: And on that excellent note, Ngaio420 -- Ngaio Bealum, thank you so much. @Ngaio420, yeah, that's your handle. Ngaio Bealum, thank you so very much.

NGAIO BEALUM: There's 419 other Ngaios, is why I had to put down Ngaio420.

DOUG MCVAY: It's a long line, but --

NGAIO BEALUM: Thanks, Doug. Have a wonderful day, man.

DOUG MCVAY: You too, brother.

NGAIO BEALUM: I'll talk to you later. Bye.

DOUG MCVAY: That was my interview with the genius who is Ngaio Bealum. Comedian, journalist, activist, and a good friend.

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

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

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember: Knowledge is power.

You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

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

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

12/26/18 Ngaio Bealum

Century of Lies
Ngaio Bealum

The UK Parliament's House of Commons debates marijuana legalization, plus Ngaio Bealum on equity in the cannabis industry.

Audio file



DECEMBER 26, 2018

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

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

On December Eleventh, the UK House of Commons held a debate over the legalization of marijuana.

Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament Norman Lamb, who represents the constituency of North Norfolk, used a Parliamentary rule to attempt to introduce a bill to legalize the possession and use of marijuana, and to regulate its production, distribution, and sale.

On today’s show, we’re going to hear portions of that debate. First, here’s The Right Honourable Norman Lamb.

THE HONOURABLE JOHN BERCOW, MP: Order. Ten Minute Rule motion. Norman Lamb.

THE RIGHT HONOURABLE NORMAN LAMB, MP: Thank you, Mister Speaker. I beg to move, that leave be given to bring in a Bill to legalize the possession and consumption of cannabis; to provide for the regulation of the production, distribution and sale of cannabis; and for connected purposes.

Over the last few weeks, three of my constituents have, individually, come to see me to discuss cannabis. All three suffer acute continuing pain. One has fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and IBS.

He has been prescribed Fentanyl, which we know is highly addictive and potentially fatal. He stopped taking it out of fear of the consequences. Yet cannabis offers him essential pain relief, but he has no option but to buy it illegally.

He knows at any time that he could face arrest and prosecution. Following the Government’s reforms allowing for the prescribing of cannabis-based products for medicinal use, he went to see his GP to get a prescription. He was told that they, the GPs, were all under instructions not to refer patients to the pain clinic because there is no evidence of therapeutic value.

Yet something as dangerous as Fentanyl remains available.

Another constituent, who has rapidly advancing Parkinson’s disease, also uses cannabis. It's the only thing that helps him. He has also been told by his GP that he can't be referred to a specialist for cannabis to be prescribed.

So we leave this man, who is acutely unwell, having to break the law in order to get relief from pain. This is surely cruel and inhuman.

The third man, in his fifties, finds that cannabis is the only thing that offers him respite from pain following an injury to his leg. He has a lifelong allergy to codeine. Other painkillers have caused serious problems with his kidneys. But cannabis works for him.

Fearing the risks of buying from a street dealer, he bought some over the internet. He then faced a police raid. Despite my pleas to the police that giving him a criminal record would not be in the public interest, last week he was given a caution.

This man has been a law-abiding citizen all his life. He has found this whole thing acutely distressing. He fears that the consequence of the caution is that he won't be able to visit his son in Australia.

The treatment of this man is shameful. What is the point of doing this to him? What is the possible public interest?

Across the country, people like this are left with no option but to break the law. The Government’s reforms raised expectations but have dashed hopes for so many people.

The approach taken by the Government is so restrictive that the numbers who will benefit are minuscule. If you are lucky, you might live in an area where the police force takes an enlightened approach.

Chief Constable Mike Barton in Durham has effectively decriminalized cannabis for personal use. And a recent parliamentary answer I received reveals that, in some areas, prosecutions and cautions have plummeted.

Yet, surely we can't justify this postcode lottery, where two people behaving in exactly the same way are treated differently depending on where they live. One will be forever tarnished with a criminal record, and the other won't.

It is clear that the recent reforms are not working, so the Government should look in the round at the harm that prohibition of cannabis is causing across the country and try to come up with a more enlightened approach.?

In Canada, the Liberal Government of Justin Trudeau has implemented a new legal regulated market for cannabis for recreational and medicinal use. Their approach is instructive.

In June 2016, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Public Safety, and the Minister of Health jointly set out the key principles that should guide reform, including:
protecting young people by keeping cannabis out of the hands of children and youth;
keeping profits out of the hands of criminals;
preventing people from receiving criminal records for simple cannabis possession offences, reducing the burden on police and the justice system;
protecting public health and safety by strengthening the law with respect to serious offences such as selling cannabis to minors and driving under influence;
providing support for addiction treatment, mental health support, and education programs to inform people about the risks;
access to quality-controlled cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Surely those principles should guide us too. Carrying on as we are has dreadful consequences.

And I want to just make four key points.

First, nowhere across the world has prohibition worked. Cannabis is available everywhere.

Second, people have no idea what they are buying. We know that leaving supply in the hands of criminals puts particularly teenagers at risk. They are the most susceptible to suffering mental health consequences, including psychosis, from regular use of potent strains available on the street.

The widespread use of those dangerous strains is the result of our failure to regulate. A regulated market would allow governments to control the safety and potency of cannabis sold by legal vendors.

Yet through a misplaced desire to be “tough on drugs”, we leave teenagers vulnerable to exploitation from sellers who have no interest at all in their welfare. Through inaction, Government and Parliament are culpable.

If something is potentially dangerous to children and young people, control it and regulate it. Don't leave it freely available from those keen to make a fast buck.

Third, we know that the illegal market for drugs generates extreme violence in many communities, particularly the most disadvantaged. If a supplier faces competition, they don't resort to the courts to protect their market; they use extreme violence.

Thousands of people have lost their lives as a result of illegal trade in drugs in countries like Mexico, but on the streets of our poorest communities, violence is meted out regularly. Young, vulnerable teenagers get caught up in this violent trade and can't escape. Yet it doesn't have to be like this.

Fourth, we still criminalize thousands of people every year, taking up precious police time which could be used to fight serious crime. Careers are blighted for using a substance which no doubt many peope on the Government Benches have used at some stage in their lives.

Meanwhile, the most harmful drug of all is consumed in large quantities right here in this building. Alcohol leads to violence on our streets and behind closed doors in people’s homes. It destroys families up and down our country, yet we tax it, and the Exchequer benefits enormously from it.

Isn't there a dreadful hypocrisy, that we allow our drug of choice, whilst criminalizing people who use another, less dangerous drug, many for the relief of pain??

My Bill, Mister Speaker, offers a more rational alternative to this mess. With strict regulation of the growing, sale and marketing of cannabis, with an age limit of 18 for the purchase and consumption of cannabis, with clear controls over potency of what is sold in licensed outlets, we can at last start to protect children and teenagers.

We can at last treat all those people who suffer acute pain, or who have conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and epilepsy, with dignity and respect. We can end the shameful treatment of these people as criminals.

We can at last end the extraordinary practice of handing billions of pounds every year to organized crime. We can instead start to tax the sale of cannabis, so that revenues can be used for good purpose, public health education, the NHS, schools, and the police.

We can start to take some of the violence and intimidation off our streets and restore order in our poorest communities. We can free up police time to focus on serious crime. Mister Speaker, this is rational, evidence-based policy making.

It's time for this country to act on the evidence and to protect children and young people from harm.

DOUG MCVAY: That was The Right Honourable Norman Lamb, a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament representing the constituency of North Norfolk in the UK. He was speaking in the House of Commons in favor of a bill to legalize marijuana.

To be painfully precise, Lamb was speaking in favor of his motion for permission to bring in a Bill under Standing Order Number 23.

Standing Order Number 23 is also called the Ten Minute Rule. It’s a way by which individual members, particularly backbench MPs and Members from minority parties, can try to bring up legislation.

According to Parliament’s website, quote:
“Ten Minute Rule Bills are often an opportunity for Members to voice an opinion on a subject or aspect of existing legislation, rather than a serious attempt to get a Bill passed.

“Members make speeches of no more than ten minutes outlining their position, which another Member may oppose in a similar short statement. It is a good opportunity to raise the profile of an issue and to see whether it has support among other Members.”
End quote.

Norman Lamb, the MP who sought to introduce this measure, is from the Liberal Democrat Party, which is a small though influential minority party in Parliament.

But this isn’t a show about Brexit. This is a program about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs.

This is Century of Lies. We’re a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. I'm your host, Doug McVay.

You can find this program and a complete archive of past shows, along with complete transcripts, on the website at

On December Eleventh, the UK Parliament’s House of Commons held a debate on marijuana legalization. On the first half of today’s show, we heard from a proponent of marijuana law reform, the Right Honourable Norman Lamb, a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament representing the constituency of North Norfolk.

Now, we’re going to hear from the opponent, Steve Double, a Conservative Member of Parliament representing the constituency of St. Austell and Newquay.

THE HONOURABLE JOHN BERCOW, MP: The question is, does the right honourable Member have leave to bring in the bill. Mister Steve Double?

STEVE DOUBLE: Thank you very much, Mister Speaker.

And, first, I would want to pay respect to the right honourable Member for North Norfolk for introducing his Bill. I know that he has a long record of campaigning on this issue, and whilst I strongly disagree with him, I do respect his desire that something be done to address this very important issue.

Because I'm sure, Mister Speaker, that we can all agree that something does need to be done about the current situation with cannabis use, in its current form that is wrong and unsustainable and doing a great deal of damage to our society.

But I do not believe that liberalizing it in this way that has just been proposed, and decriminalizing it, will be the answer.

Part of my view is largely informed by experience that I have had personally of seeking to help and support people who have been regular users of cannabis.

And I have seen very close up and first hand the lives that it wrecks, the impact on mental health that it has, and the costs that it not only has to the individuals but to their families, to their communities, and to wider society.

And I have to say to the right honourable Gentleman, I was slightly confused in the line that he was taking because he seemed to be confusing medicinal use for cannabis with recreational use.

And I think the Government should take great credit for the progress that has been made recently in allowing the use of cannabis products for medical use, and that is absolutely right, and I believe has a great deal of support across the country.

And I would agree with the argument that more should be done to ensure that cannabis for medical use gets to the people who really need it, and I would agree with the point that more needs to be done to get medical professionals on board and for them to adjust to the new regime.

But let's remember, these new measures were only introduced a few weeks ago, on the First of November, and I think we need to give more time to allow these changes to come into effect before we jump -- take a huge leap of faith towards decriminalizing cannabis altogether.

My concern is that, by liberalizing cannabis use, we will be sending precisely the wrong message to our young people. We will be giving them the message that somehow cannabis is safe and okay to use.

And I believe we need to make very clear that cannabis is a dangerous drug and that there is no safe use in an uncontrolled way, in an unregulated way, for cannabis to be consumed.

We are clearly in the midst of a war on drugs, but I would say that we do not win the war by raising the white flag and giving up and surrendering. We do -- no war has ever been won by surrendering.?

It's been well established, the impact of regular cannabis use on mental health. There is strong evidence that demonstrates that frequent use of cannabis is linked to the inducement of psychosis.

One study in south London revealed that there was a threefold increase in the risk of individuals having a psychotic disorder amongst regular cannabis users compared to those who do not use cannabis.

In recent years, we have seen a steady decline in -- a steady reduction in the use of cannabis. Over the past 20 years, it has declined by 30 percent.

YouGov polling conducted this year indicates that legislation could significantly disturb this overall downward trend. Over a quarter of people under 25 who have never tried cannabis indicated that they would definitely, or likely -- or would be likely to try it, if it was legalized. That is over one million 18 to 24-year-olds.

Of those who have used cannabis before, well over a third of 18 to 24-year-olds said that they would be more likely to use it more regularly if it was decriminalized.

I believe that legislation would send a very wrong message to our young people that cannabis is okay to use. And I think that we all understand that for many people, the use of cannabis is a gateway drug to more serious and more damaging drug use.

And therefore, it would be absolutely wrong to send this message that somehow cannabis is okay, because of where it would lead for many, many people.

Of course, as with most laws, the Misuse of Drugs Act is adhered to by the vast majority of people, but it is ignored by some. We must not forget that the current law does deter a great many from drug use, and this serves a very important public interest.

But this is no endorsement of the status quo. We all have at least some common ground here. It is intolerable to see our young people hurting themselves or ending their lives prematurely because of the effects of this dangerous drug.

Our approach must be bolder. We must be offering more meaningful support and aim to drive down consumption yet further.

This will not be achieved by a new website or a helpline.

We need to intervene and challenge, using experts in the field of drug use, recovered addicts, and recovering users, who can reach out and invite a real prospect of change for users.

A procedure that replaces the current system of issuing a relatively ineffectual warning or punitive fine given by a police officer with an alternative of offering diversion through the attendance of a local drugs awareness day would have a greater impact in reducing use.

A part of what is currently charged as a fixed penalty notice could go instead to local treatment providers to pay for the service.

The right honourable Gentleman referred to the situation in Canada. But it's nteresting, on the eve of the legislation being introduced in Canada, an article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal referred to the legislation as:

“a national, uncontrolled experiment in which the profits of cannabis producers and tax revenues are squarely pitched against the health of Canadians.”

Yes, we can learn from experiments taking place elsewhere, but we don't need to risk the lives of some of our most vulnerable residents to do that.

This is one of the most -- one of the many substances that plagues our communities and rob both young and old, and predominantly the most disadvantaged, of a full life.

We must commit to do more, to have a person-centric approach, to show compassion, yet keep the decisiveness of criminal law to intervene when the public ?interests demands it.

I accept that there is a trend from other nations to legalize cannabis, but the evidence at this stage is still very mixed.

Legislation -- decriminalization at best is a risky step for us to take. An whilst I understand the desire for something to be done to address this issue, I do not believe that liberalization in this way is right for our country at this time.

We need to do better for our young people, but giving up the war on cannabis is not the way to achieve that. I cannot support this Bill, and if the House does divide on this issue, I will be voting against it, and I would encourage other Members to join me to not allow this Bill to progress.

THE HONOURABLE JOHN BERCOW, MP: Order. The question is that the right honourable Member have leave to bring in the Bill. As many as are of that opinion say Aye [Crowd goes Aye]. Of the contrary, No [Crowd goes No]. Division! Clear the Lobby.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Steve Double, a Conservative Member of Parliament, speaking against marijuana legalization during a debate in the UK House of Commons.

After the debate ended, Members voted on the motion, of whether Parliament should consider a bill to legalize marijuana.

THE HONOURABLE JOHN BERCOW, MP: Order. The question is that the right honourable Member have leave to bring in the Bill. As many as are of that opinion say Aye. Of the contrary No. The tellers for the Ayes, Tom Brake and Jamie Stone. Tellers for the Nos, Sir Mike Penning and Andrew Selous.

Lock the doors!

Order! Order.

PARLIAMENTARY OFFICER: The Ayes to the right, 52. The Nos the left, 66.

THE HONOURABLE JOHN BERCOW, MP: The Ayes to the right, 52, the Nos to the left, 66. So the Nos have it, the Nos have it. Unlock. Order.

DOUG MCVAY: The motion failed to pass, by a vote of 52 in favor to 66 against. I know I said this isn’t a show about Brexit but for context, here’s a little information about Parliament. I'll keep it all simple.

There are a total of 650 Members of the House of Commons, who all represent individual geographic constituencies around the UK. Think of it like the US House of Representatives, only with more than just two parties and more than just one country. I mean, remember that the UK includes Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in addition to England.

The majority party in Parliament forms a government, including the Prime Minister and other Ministers, who head up departments. Those officials are all Members of Parliament, so, again, very different from the US.

Now currently, no party has an actual majority in Parliament. The Conservative Party was able to form a government by entering into what’s called a Confidence and Supply Agreement with a very small minority party, the Democratic Unionist Party.

The DUP is the dominant Protestant political party in Northern Ireland, which is really sad because they’re bigoted religious zealots who believe the Christian bible’s story of creation is actual, literal, historical truth. Sad for Northern Ireland, sad for the UK in general.

But this isn’t a program about Brexit, this is a show about drug policy reform and the failing war on drugs. A quorum in the House of Commons, according to the Parliament website, is just 40 members. So if that motion had been approved, Parliament would have been discussing a bill to legalize.

All things considered, 52 to 66 is pretty good. And what's most important is, he brought it forward. All too often, you hear politicians say, well, it's a great idea, I'd love to, but it would never get passed, I wouldn't introduce it because it won't get passed.

Why would you do something that won't get passed? Well, the answer is: leadership.. That's called leadership. And it's good to see it happening somewhere.

NGAIO BEALUM: My name's Ngaio Bealum. I've been an activist for more than -- a marijuana activist for more than 20 years. Mostly a comedian, I also write, I'm the marijuana advice columnist for the Sacramento News & Review, Monterrey County Weekly, I write -- I've written for AlterNet, and Guardian.

I write for THC News, the national edition and the Colorado edition. I used to publish West Coast Cannabis Magazine, I write for Cannabis Now Magazine, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

I love marijuana more than most people. No, wait. I love marijuana more than I love most people. But look, the thing about the diversity issue is, we have to make sure, when we first started on this cannabis legalization, it was mostly because social justice. Right?

And stoners didn't want to be bothered, stoners just wanted to be able to smoke weed and be stoners. And now that we see this gigantic explosion of business and commerce, we have to remember the social justice aspect. Right? And so cannabis freedom can't still mean exclusion of minorities. Right, you see where I'm coming from?

When you're an outlaw, it's easy. You get a pound and a pager, you're a businessman. Right? But now -- a pager, because I started in the 1980s.

ED FORCHION: You're dating yourself.

NGAIO BEALUM: Just beep me, dawg, I'll call you back from the payphone. But now, it's a whole different thing. Right? Some states, you need a million dollars in the bank before you can even ask to get a medical marijuana license.

And so we have to make sure that the barriers to entry are relatively low, and then people who have been most adversely effected by the war on drugs get a chance to a get a slice of this new cannabis pie. You know?

I think Oakland's been doing some things to ensure that minorities and women of color get first crack at it. Crack maybe not the best word to use.

But, I think that's the biggest thing, is, we have to -- it's incumbent upon the people who are reaping the benefits to make sure that everybody else gets a chance, too, and to open it up for everybody else. We can't just be selfish, because that's not what weed is about. That's all. All right.

I think one of the challenges is, the people who are coming in with all the money have to make sure that they're including other people. Right? Like Chris Rock says, white people created racism, white people need to deal with it. You know what I'm saying?

So it's not up to black people always to stand up and be like, hire me, hire me. You all need to be out looking for cats, y'all need to be out trying to find women, y'all need to be out trying to find people who might know things, especially if you're new to the cannabis industry.

Maybe you want to talk to somebody who's been in the cannabis industry, whether underground or aboveground for a few years, and bring them on board, and figure out how stoners actually work, because it will save a lot of money and hurt feelings if you have an idea of that first.

I don't think Oakland's is the right thing. I just think we have to make sure not to over regulate it, and make sure that people who want to get into it, have a chance. I mean, the challenges before, the reason you didn't see more black people owning dispensaries in the outlaw, illegal days, is because they come after black people first.

My boy Virgil Grant had three dispensaries in LA, all by the book. All by the book, the man is a mother f*****' stickler. And he just got out of jail, for six years, from the feds. You understand? And everybody else still has a club. Right?

So, now that it's more legal and more open, we just have to make sure that everybody gets a chance, and that's on the cats coming in.

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

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

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember: Knowledge is power.

You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

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

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

09/02/18 Ngaio Bealum

Century of Lies
Ngaio Bealum
Dominic Holden

This week: we wrap up our coverage of Seattle Hempfest 2018 with an interview with comedian and journalist Ngaio Bealum, plus we speak with BuzzFeed News political affairs reporter Dominic Holden about a major story he broke recently on secret White House plans to ratchet up federal efforts against marijuana legalization.

Audio file




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

VIVIAN MCPEAK: And he is a Reefer Raider trained by Jack Herer, the Hemperor, himself, who spoke at every Hempfest except one year, when he was sick, before he passed away, and in his memory, it gives me great pleasure to say, Doug McVay!

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

This week, we wrap up our Hempfest coverage with an interview with the comedian and journalist Ngaio Bealum. But first, here are some headlines.

California ends cash bail. California has become the first state in the nation to eliminate cash bail for people awaiting trial. The state's cash bail system was declared unconstitutional by a state appeals court in 2017. Under the old system, people arrested and charged with a crime had to empty their savings or pay a bail bond agent to be released.

While that was no problem for people with sufficient means, those with low incomes or no savings could find themselves behind bars until the end of their trial. Criminal justice reform advocates have argued for decades that these cash bail system force people to accept guilty pleas for crimes they did not commit, just to end the disruption to their lives caused by being incarcerated indefinitely awaiting trial.

Under this new law, local courts in California will decide who to keep in custody and whom to release awaiting trial, based on the court's discretion. The California ACLU withdrew its support from the bill at the eleventh hour because of concerns that judges would be allowed too much discretion under this new law.

An estimated seven thousand jobs in the bail bond industry could be affected, so the industry is expected to file suit to try and have the law overturned.

You know, just an observation, I interviewed my local district attorney a year or so ago, and he made a similar argument regarding mandatory minimum sentencing, saying that actually they were much fairer than allowing judges the discretion to decide what kind of a sentence to impose on someone.

The racism and classism that so many people within the judiciary still suffer from would mean that white, privileged people might get lower sentences. According to District Attorney Foote, mandatory minimums could therefore be even more fair, because it would take away that discretion so that bias would not interfere.

The problem with that analysis is that it presumes the rest of the criminal justice system is fair, that the rest of the system does not suffer from those racial and class biases, when actually that's far from the case.

Policing is definitely biased, both in a class sense and in a racial sense. Prosecution, bless John Foote, he's a decent man, but there are many in his position who have those racial and class biases, and the charging decisions that are made before the trial even commences, those have a great deal of bearing.

So a person could be charged with one crime and face a massive mandatory sentence, or the prosecutor might decide to file lesser charges with less of a mandatory minimum. Again, the problem is, with mandatory minimums, you take the discretion away from the judge and put it in the hands of the police and prosecutor.

The same with cash bail. Yes, you're putting discretion into the hands of the judge, but you're taking that discretion out of the hands of the police and the prosecutor. I guess it comes down to, who do you really trust more? Well, we'll see how things go in California.

Another thing happening in California is AB186, Assembly Bill 186. We've talked about that quite often on the show. As loyal listeners know, overdose prevention sites, safe consumption spaces, and supervised injection facilities, those are all names for a life saving strategy that soon will be in operation in the city of San Francisco.

On August 27, the California State Assembly approved Senate amendments to Assembly Bill 186, to allow officials in the city and county of San Francisco to set up and operate safe consumption spaces. That bill now goes to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown, who's expected to sign the measure into law.

There are similar efforts underway in several locations around the United States, including Portland, Seattle/King County, Ithaca, New York, New York City, and Philadelphia, and many others.

Also on Monday, August 27, Deputy US Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in which he warned cities and counties against harm reduction strategies, specifically against trying to set up supervised consumption spaces.

Rosenstein would prefer that communities stick with traditional law enforcement and "just say no" campaigns -- the same failed tactics that we've been doing for decades, the same failed tactics that have led us to this overdose crisis, and to fentanyl and carfentanyl and so many of these new psychoactive substances.

Assembly Bill 186 was amended by the California Senate. Originally it would have allowed several communities within California to set up safe consumption spaces. The Senate amendments narrowed it so that only San Francisco city and county would be allowed to do so.

I would have liked it if Governor Brown would have signed that bill on August 31. Friday, August 31 was International Overdose Awareness Day, when activists and family members and community members and people of all sorts from all over the world gather and hold memorials, and demonstrations, and other events to commemorate the lives of those lost and to push for better, more effective policies that could save lives.

Governor Brown is expected, as I say, to sign that bill, and we will have more information about that when it happens.

That leads us to this last piece.

The US Centers for Disease Control, in August, announced that approximately 72,000 people died in 2017 from a drug overdose. That's a significant increase from 2016, when more than 63,000 people died from drug overdose.

Much of the growth in drug overdose deaths has been fueled by a synthetic opiate called fentanyl, and analogues of fentanyl, which have contaminated many street drugs, particularly heroin. In the last year, however, there's also been a dramatic increase in deaths attributed to cocaine overdose, from nearly 11,000 in 2016 to more than 14,000 in 2017.

DOMINIC HOLDEN: I am Dominic Holden, a political reporter at BuzzFeed News.

DOUG MCVAY: Dominic, you broke a major story this week about the administration and its plans for the drug war. Tell us about this.

DOMINIC HOLDEN: Well, what we found was that the White House has amassed a group, secretly, of several federal agencies across the government, and what they're doing is combating positive messages about marijuana, portraying marijuana as a national threat, and identifying problems with state initiatives, trying to portray legalization initiatives in a negative light.

And this is according to a number of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News as well as by interviews with agency staff and the White House, and ultimately, they are working on giving a presentation of some sort about these harms and threats of marijuana to the president.

One of the things that's ironic about it, one of the memos says that, when they met on July 27 of this year, that they believed that the narrative around marijuana in the United States was too one-sided, and in order to counteract that, they are asking fourteen agencies and the DEA to submit data that only shows negative trends of marijuana, regardless of what the data show, even if it's positive.

So, they're trying to, I guess, fight what they believe is the positive perception of marijuana with one-sided propaganda.

DOUG MCVAY: Now, there's been a whispering campaign ever since the -- well, ever since the campaign about a sort of, the president really has a secret plan to end the marijuana war, I mean, his ONDCP picks have been horrible, his Justice Department has been horrible, every administration official that's ever said something reasonable about marijuana has been slapped down and forced to clarify, contradict, or completely abandon those remarks shortly afterward.

And yet, it seems like people still think the president has a secret plan to end the marijuana war. It sounds like that secret plan is as bogus as Nixon's was.

DOMINIC HOLDEN: It is so difficult to understand where president Trump is coming from here. This is someone who on the campaign trail talked about respecting states, and then as soon as he takes the White House, in a press briefing, they say to expect more marijuana enforcement in those states with legalization laws.

Then we see Trump come out for a bill sponsored by Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a bipartisan bill, that would shield those states from the Justice Department's intervention, and it's really been scattershot.

And ultimately, we know that the president can see something on Fox News or somewhere else and come out guns blazing with a new policy.

This is being organized by the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy, the drug czar's office, and by charter, this is an entity that exists to portray marijuana and other drugs as tremendously harmful and has historically campaigned against legalization measures.

What's obviously different now, public attitudes have shifted far in favor of legalization. We have these models in eight states of regulation for adults to buy and to use marijuana, and we have a president who has been fairly mushy on this issue.

So for them to come out with what looks like a very one-sided effort for a propaganda campaign is fairly unprecedented, particularly given that it's got such a deep bench across the federal government.

DOUG MCVAY: I have to quibble with something quickly, though. I mean --


DOUG MCVAY: Well, I -- you say it's their charter, and it is in there, it's true. And during the last Bush administration, we certainly saw that, actively, members of staff, officials from ONDCP, going to states and campaigning against legalization and against medicalization. We did not see that under the Obama administration.

And in fact, two of his drug czars, Gil Kerlikowske and Michael Botticelli, made presentations to the Harm Reduction Coalition's big international conferences. Gil did it by videotape, Michael Botticelli showed up in person. Now I'll grant you, that's not the Drug Policy Alliance conference, but Harm Reduction Coalition is very much in favor of decrim. They're very active.

And, I mean, I'll -- and you say he endorsed, well, did he endorse Gardner's bill? He was asked about it, he stopped -- he interrupted the question before it was finished [sic: the question, audio of which comes after this interview, was completed however it was largely inaudible over the sound of the president's helicopter], said that he knew what Gardner was up to and he supports it and all is well.

He never said what it was Gardner was up to. He never said he favored changing the laws on marijuana. He just said, yeah, yeah, I know what he's up to and I'm behind him. Really? Okeh. So I mean, that's not exactly the full-throated endorsement one would hope for. And yet, it's being taken as that. Nixon never said he had a secret plan to end the war. He alluded to something, and just let nature take its course.

We've had memes now and other kinds of fake news stories on facebook talking about, oh, he said that, the president has said he's -- he hasn't actually said that, though. I mean, it feels to me like he's trying to have it both ways. But his base, those are the drug warriors. I don't know, what do you think?

DOMINIC HOLDEN: I think there's no question that Trump often wants to have it both ways, and, the same way that he said that he endorses Gardner's bill without a bill without a description of what aspect of the bill he likes is much like Senator Gardner coming forward and saying that he had received assurances from Trump that he wouldn't intervene in the regulatory model of Colorado. But this is Gardner saying it, although the White House has been, yeah yeah yeah, you know, we agree with whatever he says, we've never actually heard Trump articulate a vision for what the limitations of the Justice Department would be.

In fact, the Cole Memo, that had established a tolerance policy for states that bided by certain guidelines, essentially, has been rescinded by Jeff Sessions, and Trump has left himself a lot of room to do really whatever he likes. This is, you know, for a fit analogy, this is a little bit like what he said around the transgender bathroom issue.

He said while campaigning that Kaitlyn Jenner could use the women's restroom in his facility, he said states should be able to do what they like, and yet, once his administration took power, you saw them both rescind a set of guidelines that accommodated transgender students all across the country, and you saw Sessions arguing that Title XII no longer protects transgender workers and their bathroom rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

So, Trump can say that he wants to let states do something, and then stake out a middle ground, while his agencies implement a hardline, traditionally conservative agenda. And given the fact this is being operated by the ONDCP, that has looped in so many of these agencies, they certainly have the power to start advancing an agenda, whether or not the president is fully behind it or is simply adjacent to it is unclear.

But we do know that Trump if often influenced by whoever was in the room with him last. And so, if these people put together a presentation, and it is tremendously compelling about the harms of marijuana and legalization, what isn't to say that Trump won't declare that marijuana is a threat and that the federal government has a role as it did under the Bush administration, fighting tooth and nail to defeat these legalization measures.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, I'm going to be wanting to follow this story as it develops, and I'm really glad to know that you're a reporter on this case. I have been a fan of yours for many years now, and you're doing incredibly -- you're doing exceptionally good work. I'm curious --

DOMINIC HOLDEN: Well, I was a fan of yours, for Drug War Facts, long before you met me. The honor is mine.

DOUG MCVAY: Ah, mutual admiration society, well here's a -- just curious. The story, I think, has legs. I know that as we're recording this, yesterday -- we're recording this on a Friday morning. Yesterday, the Fox News did about ten minutes on this story. Have other outlets, have other entities been picking up on it? What kind of response -- how many more interviews do you have scheduled today, sir?

DOMINIC HOLDEN: This is my first interview of the day, I've got another one in about 30 minutes. This story has been picked up really across the board, everything from, you know, New York Magazine and GQ to Politico and the Washington Post have been discussing this. Rolling Stone came out with a piece interviewing lawmakers.

Just yesterday, Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado sent a letter to the White House, confronting them over the report and saying that they were tremendously concerned that the White House was losing credibility on this issue, and was presenting skewed information as a form of propaganda.

So, there has been an ongoing blowback from this, and fortunately, you know, given the access that we had to these documents, we're able to turn this inside out and we know that people are going to be tracking what it's doing, whether that is through records request to the federal government, or simply asking probing questions. What was once hidden is in view, and hopefully that scrutiny means that the information that we do get is more accurate and impartial than whatever had been planned.

DOUG MCVAY: Fantastic. Well again, we're going to be following this story very closely, and again, folks, I'm speaking with Dominic Holden, political reporter at BuzzFeed News. Dominic, give me your social media stuff, how do people follow your work.

DOMINIC HOLDEN: I'm losing you.

DOUG MCVAY: I'll try that again. Dominic, give me your social media handle, how do people follow your work, where do people find you?

DOMINIC HOLDEN: Ah. Absolutely. You can follow me on Twitter at @DominicHolden, @DominicHolden.

DOUG MCVAY: Terrific. Dominic, thank you so very much.

DOMINIC HOLDEN: Thank you so much for having me.

DOUG MCVAY: Dominic Holden is a political affairs reporter at BuzzFeed News. We were talking about his recent article which revealed that the White House has secret plans to continue the war on marijuana.


VOICE: Do you Senator Gardner's marijuana federalism bill?

PRESIDENT donald trump: I really do, I support Senator Gardner, I know exactly what he's doing, we're looking at it, but I probably will end up supporting that, yes.

DOUG MCVAY: You are listening to Century of Lies. We’re a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of

And now, let's catch that interview with comedian, activist, and journalist Ngaio Bealum.

Okeh, I bring the level down there so I'm not quite as hot. And, I'm sitting here at Seattle Hempfest with a view of the Puget Sound, it is an absolutely glorious day, not too hot, not too cool, a lovely little breeze, a little bit of haze because all the fires, okeh that part sucks.

But I'm sitting here with Ngaio Bealum, so that makes up for all that. How are you doing, man?

NGAIO BEALUM: Great, man, it is a beautiful day. It is day three of the Seattle Hempfest. Supply lines are longer and harder to maintain. So is sobriety. Usually, you know, you show up the first day, maybe you try to ration, oh, I've got to speak, I'm speaking for a couple of hours here, been doing a thing there, then this.

And then, you know, by Saturday, I go, ah, you know what, I've got to talk but I think I've got the hang of it so I'll smoke all your weed, and, you know, after the after party or whatnot, and then on Sunday you're just like f*** it. And yeah, sure, man, I'll smoke that, this huge blunt before I've had breakfast? I'm in. I'm in, let's go.

And so that's where I'm at now, I'm just, as a kite, would probably be a good descriptor.

DOUG MCVAY: Now you have been doing a lot of stuff so far this thing, you've MCed a couple of times, you're doing a set in a little while, you were -- were you, the DOPE Awards, were you part -- were you the entertainment, or?

NGAIO BEALUM: I were not the entertainment for the DOPE Awards, although I do love DOPE Magazine. But I did go to their afterparty, and they had a doughnut wall. It was just a wall, festooned with donuts that you could take down, and good donuts, from top pot doughnut, which is a great doughnut here in Seattle, although it's an expensive, it's like a three dollar doughnut, which seems a little high, but, you know, there's usually cardamom involved so ... right? Cardamom is not a cheap spice.

DOUG MCVAY: But it is delicious. My favorite -- my favorite, in the bay area, down near Grand Lake, there's a -- Lake Merritt, rather, there is, there was at least, a, what are those things? The, with the ice cream, the fancy -- gelato. A gelaterie. Fancy ice cream. They made a cardamom gelato that is off the hook.

NGAIO BEALUM: Oh yeah. You can't go wrong with a cardamom gelato, really, it's really excellent. There's a place in LA called Scoops, and they do fancy gelatos like that. Irish brown bread gelato, and cardamom spice gelato, and, you know, duck salad, or whatever. I don't know. They just make a good -- yeah, it's fantastic.

DOUG MCVAY: Three days of Hempfest, and we're talking about food, and well you would, I mean, aside from getting hungry, it -- I went to the Iowa State Fair every year when I was a kid because I lived in central Iowa and that was pretty much the highlight of my year, which --


DOUG MCVAY: -- tells you a lot about Iowa [sic: more than that, it really tells you a lot about Doug], and the midway, with all that food and all these weird, and the donuts, and it's like, there's more food, there are more -- there's more food and this is a bigger midway than five Iowa State Fairs.

NGAIO BEALUM: You can get a chicken and waffle cone here. So they'll put some fried chicken in a waffle cone and then you can just walk around, with maple sauce and whatnot. They also have the deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it's still here. The mini donuts place is still here. I haven't seen the chocolate covered strawberry people in a while, but there's pork buns -- everything from pork buns to soul food. You can get anything you want here, it's just one of the best festivals in the world. That's how I feel about it.

DOUG MCVAY: I agree. And it's -- aside from the food there's also all the vendors. It's, it's -- it's a dozen Dead shows, it's Shakedown, it's a dozen Shakedown Streets rolled into one.

NGAIO BEALUM: It's as if Shakedown Street was two miles long. Right? With better music.

DOUG MCVAY: Ah, jeez, much better.

NGAIO BEALUM: Fewer drum circles.

DOUG MCVAY: That's the other thing that I was missing and I'm so glad of it, too.

NGAIO BEALUM: And no nitrous.

DOUG MCVAY: This is true. And you know, fewer people than I have in years past, I mean, occasionally you'd hear people trying, you know, the joints and that. Once. Once so far, and that's been about it.

NGAIO BEALUM: What? Selling weed?

DOUG MCVAY: Selling loose joints, yeah.

NGAIO BEALUM: Oh, yeah, I mean, you can still find them. There's a couple of cats. They usually stick to the outskirts of the park now, so you can like pick it up on your way in, or whatnot.

The underground economy is still pretty good, the underground cannabis scene is still pretty interesting. And I was just out on Vashon Island, and a lot of those guys, man, they're still underground, they stick to underground, they don't like any of this dispensary weed, or this recreational weed. They find it overproduced and uncared for, and always not cured correctly, sometimes flushed badly.

There's a lot of challenges in creating it. I think a lot of people think that you just, you know, buy a license and open a farm and start growing good weed, and that's not how it goes, man. Weed is like craft beer, it's like a good wine, it's like heirloom tomatoes. You still have to take care and put love in your product to have anything viable.

It's almost a race to the bottom in a lot of these legal states, man. Everybody's just thinking bigger is necessarily better, and you're just -- I almost cussed. You're just messing up the prices for everybody. You're costing yourself money, and you're costing other people money, and I don't -- I don't think it's necessarily the way to go.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, you know I agree. This is -- I mean, the way that the, the corporatization is the -- I mean, it's interesting, too, because we have this, oh, pharma's bad, and it's like, well, yes, pharma's bad because they're evil corporations. Actually there are people, some people who need the medications that they're on, and I'm not going to trash that. But the corporate evil bastards and the sales and the marketing, yes, I'll trash those, and when those people come into cannabis, I, I have to start looking at them the same way that I report on big pharma or the tobacco industry, or the alcohol industry, and they're not going to like that.

NGAIO BEALUM: It can't always be about market share, maximizing your numbers for, and while pushing everybody else out. It's not -- you know, the point of Darwinism is not that it's always survival of the fittest. It's that we're supposed to evolve into better creatures. Right?

And so a lot of these cats are showing a somewhat uninvolved, unevolved, uninvolved and unevolved, and unenlightened, state of mind. It's not, I mean, competition is good, but it's almost more of an exhibition. You should be trying to exhibit your best s*** more than trying to put other people out of business so you can get your mediocre ass weed off the ground. And that's how I feel about it.

DOUG MCVAY: There's -- there's an element of social, I mean, we're social creatures, and so the social cooperation is a real thing, and the need for that, I mean, that's part of survival too.

NGAIO BEALUM: Well, you sound like a hippie, and not a libertarian capitalist, Doug, and so, you know. These things -- listen. People are people, and you can't expect some people not to act like how people act. I think that's a diplomatic way of putting it.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, and there's the -- you can say all these things because you're a comedian, and so it's -- you can say, you can speak to truth to power because you're a comedian. I do that as a reporter and I --

NGAIO BEALUM: As long as it's funny.

DOUG MCVAY: I never heard of a DOPE Awards after party, but that's because I'm a jerk, and so I understand this, it's all good.

NGAIO BEALUM: Sure. Sure. It was a fun party, though.

DOUG MCVAY: I'm sure it was.


DOUG MCVAY: I love donuts.

NGAIO BEALUM: You can't go wrong. Donuts and weed.

DOUG MCVAY: Aw, man.

NGAIO BEALUM: That was a -- that's a pretty good, that's two of my four favorite things.

DOUG MCVAY: FCC, we're not going to ask.

NGAIO BEALUM: No, you know. Hey, we were just -- it's funnier unsolved. It's an open question, I suppose.

But hey, thank you very much for the time, man, and the speaking, and everything, and I think that one of the themes here at this year's Hempfest is that, while marijuana's legal on the west coast, and Alaska, and a lot of different places, it is still illegal in most of the country. Right?

So while these cats are out here making millions of dollars and everybody's got a cannabis business and we're all smoking weed in the streets, there are people in other states who are still in jail over a joint, who got fifteen years on two grams, who got arrested for a gram and a half of weed.

It's not over. We still need activists. We still need radicals. We still need to be in the streets, like, I've updated one of my new jokes about how what we need to do is just roll out from the west coast to all these other states and just start going door to door, like Weedhova's Witnesses, and get everybody involved.

I have some good news about weed. Can I share with you? Right? I'd like to talk to you about my faith in the cannabis hemp plant.

DOUG MCVAY: I would let a Weedhova's Witness into my home.

NGAIO BEALUM: Exactly! I have some papers here that I would like to fill and go over. Fill out. I'm going to fill out this paper with the ancient sacrament.

DOUG MCVAY: Okeh. You've got to get back because you've got to get ready for a thing, you've got stuff, so very fast, say the social media way to find you, and, what -- you've got some kind of a thing on Netflix or something?

NGAIO BEALUM: I have a thing on Netflix, I'm the cannabis expert on Cooking On High. Spelled like it sounds, Cooking On High. If you're in Mexico, I think it's Cocina en Cocal? I can't remember. They also show it in Brazil, I've got a lot of new Brazilian Instagram followers.

Follow me on all the social media, @NGAIO420. Thank you very much, Doug. Always a pleasure.

DOUG MCVAY: Oh, the pleasure's mine, man. Thank you.

NGAIO BEALUM: Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was my interview with journalist, activist, and comedian Ngaio Bealum, star of the Netflix series Cooking On High. We were hanging out at Seattle Hempfest 2018.

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

The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available via podcast, the URLs to subscribe are on the network home page at

The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember: Knowledge is power. Follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

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

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

07/08/18 Ngaio Bealum

Century of Lies
Ngaio Bealum

This week on Century of Lies we talk with the comedian, journalist, and activist Ngaio Bealum about his new show on Netflix, Cooking On High; plus, the UK House of Commons discusses the urgent need for drug safety testing at music festivals.

Audio file



JULY 8, 2018

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

DOUG MCVAY: Welcome to Century Of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of

Well, we're going to be speaking with Ngaio Bealum, my friend the comedian, writer, and now a TV star. He has a show on Netflix called Cooking On High. We'll be talking with him about that new show and some other stuff in just a moment. But first ....

On July Sixth, in the United Kingdom's Parliament in the House of Commons, there was a discussion on drug safety testing at music festivals. The question was raised by Member of Parliament for Bristol West Thangam Debbonaire. Here is the Honorable Thangam Debbonaire.

THANGAM DEBBONAIRE, MP: I start by letting all honorable and right honorable Members know that this is not today a debate about legalizing drugs. We could have that debate, but not today.

This is about how we can put safety first, take dangerous substances out of circulation, save lives, make festivals safer and more pleasant places, and probably undermine drug dealers as well, and why would we not want to do that?

In May this year, in Bristol, the much loved annual Love Saves The Day festival came to town. It was sunny, loads of people enjoyed themselves, and nobody died. I believe that this is in part because the festival organizers worked with Avon and Somerset police and with Bristol City Council to ensure that the Loop drug safety testing project, with its trained scientists and their drug counselors, were able to operate on-site.

MARK TAMI: Will the Member give way?

THANGAM DEBBONAIRE: I will happily give way.

MARK TAMI: Thank you, also thank you for giving way. And, she makes the most important point. Nobody died. And if you look at so many other festivals, there are so many young people that are losing their lives.

THANGAM DEBBONAIRE: Indeed, my honorable friend makes exactly the point that I am coming on to, which is the contrast between Love Saves The Day and another festival, was that nobody died in Bristol while at the other festival there was no drug safety testing, and sadly, tragically, two people did die and 15 others were hospitalized.

The Loop operates a model called MAST, multi-agency safety testing, that was developed by Dr Fiona Measham, professor of criminology at Durham University, co-director of the Loop, and I pay tribute to her and to all the people who work with her, and to others who help make this possible, as well as to Love Saves The Day, of course.

JEFF SMITH: [inaudible]

THANGAM DEBBONAIRE: Of course I'll give way.

JEFF SMITH: I'm very grateful to you for giving way, and delighted to join her in paying tribute to Fiona Measham, who is a constituent of mine, and her organization the Loop. And I spoke at their training day recently and I was very struck by the professionalism, the hard work, the dedication, and just how highly trained the scientists and medical practitioners were that do that job on a voluntary basis because they believe it keeps people safe.

THANGAM DEBBONAIRE: Absolutely. My honorable friend makes an excellent point. This is about safety, and it's done with skill and care.

So the Loop introduced multi-agency safety testing to the UK in the summer of 2016. Prior to this, from 2010 onwards, Professor Measham had shadowed academics, police and Home Office scientists who tested drugs on site at festivals primarily for evidential and intelligence purposes.

She saw the value of extending that forensic testing to reduce drug-related harm on site through the provision of front-of-house testing or drug checking, as has happened for decades in other European countries.

So in 2013, the Loop conducted a halfway house testing, whereby some samples of concern were obtained from agencies on site at festivals and nightclubs, and test results were then reported back to all agencies in order to inform their service provision, but also better monitoring local drug markets, which is so important if we're going to protect people.

This went further in 2016 with the introduction of MAST at the Secret Garden Party and Kendal Calling -- and for honorable Members who are not aware, those are festivals -- adding the general public to this information exchange. Although this was the first time that a drug safety testing service was available in the UK at a festival, it was built on evidence from similar services that have been running successfully in the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and Austria for a number of years.

It's a multi-agency collaboration. Small samples -- sorry, samples of substances of concern are provided by on-site agencies such as the security, or the festival organizers, or even the police, or individuals who are intending to consume those substances.

They are given a unique identifier number and they return about half an hour later to get the results of the tests. Those substances are tested by PhD chemists, highly qualified and trained, as my honorable friend has said. They're using four types of forensic analyses, they're linked to a computer database containing a regularly updated reference standard library of all known legal and illegal substances, including the new psychoactive substances, the NPSes, also known as legal highs.

People return with their unique identifier number and are given the test results as part of a 15-minute individually tailored brief intervention by an experienced healthcare worker. Harm reduction information is contextualised with their own medical and drug-using history, as well as the test results.

No drugs are returned to service users. I just want to emphasize this: the service users do not receive drugs back from the Loop. Almost all samples are destroyed during the testing and any leftover particles that are not disposed of by -- any leftover particles are then disposed of by the police at regular intervals throughout the festival. And I have seen the sort of complicated bits of kits they use to ensure that absolutely no one gets their hands on something.

A police presence is welcomed in the Loop lab throughout the day. This allows the Loop to share information and intelligence onsite. That can also help to spread messages about dangerous substances in circulation. But for this to work, the police and local authorities such as Bristol City Council agree to a tolerance zone of non-enforcement just around the testing venue, in and around the testing venue.

SANDY MARTIN: I [inaudible]

THANGAM DEBBONAIRE: I will happily give way.

SANDY MARTIN: I thank my honorable friend for giving way. Does she agree with me, that with drugs at festivals, as with a whole range of issues, taking the attitude that we should just say no, and refuse to acknowledge that there is anything we could or should do apart from that, is abrogating our responsibility to keep our citizens safe?

THANGAM DEBBONAIRE: I thank my honorable Friend for giving way, and I certainly agree that the policy of just say no has got a huge number of limitations, one of them being it doesn't seem to be working. And if we also take the sort of corresponding parallel example of just say no for sexual abstinence, which was promoted as a method of keeping teenagers from pregnancy in America for many years, that has demonstrably failed, and there are similar examples of why it doesn't work for drugs either.

So, allowing the non-enforcement zone just around the testing venue allows service users to engage fully and productively. Drug safety testing does not assist in the supply of drugs or condone or encourage drug use, and I want to reiterate that right now. There is no safe level of consumption of any drug, and that includes the legal ones of alcohol and tobacco. Giving information is what helps make safer choices.

All those who use this service are, by definition, they're already in possession of a substance. Either the drug is not tested, in which case the person concerned will consume that drug probably without any information at all, whatsoever. Or if it is tested, then they may consume it if they have more of the same substance, but with more information about what is in it to make a safer choices; or they may consume a smaller dose than they would have done otherwise; or they may not consume it all.

And in many cases, they will hand in more of the same substance, along with possibly very helpful intelligence for the police and drugs agencies about it.

TONIA ANTONIAZZI: Will my honorable friend give way?

THANGAM DEBBONAIRE: I will happily give way.

TONIA ANTONIAZZI: I thank my honorable friend for giving way, and one of the things that concerns me is, on the streets of our city centers. Would my honorable friend agree that many police forces would actually welcome the opportunity to explore safety testing in city centers across the UK, particularly on student nights out or at weekends, for example?

THANGAM DEBBONAIRE: I thank my honorable friend for that intervention, she's absolutely right. I would dearly love there to be provision in the center of Bristol, in the center of Swansea, in the center of Manchester, drug safety testing so that people who are intending to take substances -- they're going to do this -- can have safety information, make safer choices, and as I've said, often that takes dangerous substances out of circulation and disrupts drug dealers’ business models, and I'm very keen, Mister Deputy Speaker, on disrupting drug dealers' business models.

The Loop usually finds that one in 10 tested substances are not at all what the user thought they were, and unfortunately, substances that they out to be include concrete, boric acid, and various other very unpleasant substances.

One in two of the service users, after hearing about the strength of their sample and its dosage, state that they will take a smaller quantity of that drug in future. One in five dispose of further substances in their possession, and that's so important, Mister Deputy Speaker, taking something dangerous out of circulation that would otherwise otherwise have remained not just in circulation but it would have been consumed.

JEFF SMITH: Would you give way?

THANGAM DEBBONAIRE: Yes, I will happily give way.

JEFF SMITH: I'm very grateful to her, she's been very generous with her time. Does she share my concern that although drug use in this country is relatively static, more or less at the same level, drug deaths are actually rising? And that can only be attributed to an increase in toxicity of those drugs, and this is the information that we need young people to have. If they are going to be taking drugs, we need them to be aware that the drugs they take may be toxic.

THANGAM DEBBONAIRE: Yes, I will happily -- I absolutely agree with what my honorable friend's just said. Drug use is not increasing, but drug-related deaths are. They're the highest they have ever been, according to VolteFace, the campaigning organization, and I find that very troubling, that young people are taking things when they don't know what's in them, and that message of “just say no” is clearly not working. We need to think again about how we keep young people safe.

Now I don't want to go into detail here in the time available about the various aspects of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act that I would like to see changed, that's for another day, but clearly, some police forces, local authorities, and festival organizers are finding ways to have a formal agreement and memorandum of understanding about the Loop providing drug safety information. But others are not so clear, and that means that there are people, not just young people, there have been people who've died of drug -- drug-related deaths at festivals who are more my age than some of the younger people, but it's tragic whatever age that happens.

Now whatever -- according to data provided to me by the Loop, one in three people at dance -- at clubs and festivals take illegal drugs, so as my honorable friend, the honorable Member for Gower has said, this is also about clubs and city centers.

One in twenty 16 to 24-year-olds have used MDMA, also sometimes known as ecstasy, in the past year. MDMA is the majority of what we're talking about here, drug safety testing at festivals, 55% of all drugs tested at Love Saves the Day in Bristol were MDMA. But the strength of that MDMA and the potential risks of death and serious harm are rising alarmingly, as my honorable friend from Manchester Withington has said.

This was confirmed by Bristol City Council’s drugs lead, Jody Clark, and again I thank Jody for his pioneering work, his bravery, and his commitment to the safety of young people.

As my honorable friend has said, drug use is not increasing yet drug-related deaths are. But, as I've already said but really need to reiterate, at Love Saves the Day, nobody died.

That same month, at another festival where there was no drug safety testing, there were 15 hospital admissions due to drugs and two young people died, and that's happened at other festivals as well.

In a Bristol nightclub earlier this year, where there is again no drug safety testing currently, there was a death from a Tesla MDMA tablet, and again, others at other clubs at other times across the country. Tesla pills are particularly high-potency, 240 milligrams compared with the current average of 120 milligrams, which compares in turn with the 1990s dosage, which was about 50 to 80 milligrams at an average.

Wouldn't it be better, wouldn't it be better, Mister Deputy Speaker, if we could prevent that harm? If the parents of those young people, and they were mostly young people, never had to hear the words of every parent’s nightmare? Is it really enough just to say “just say no”?

Preaching abstinence, as I've said, in sexual activity as a means of preventing pregnancy demonstrably fails. Preaching abstinence in relation to drug use is also not working, and neither is the advice that I have to say I'm afraid to say I heard a minister give in this chamber last July, that one should never take anything that you can't buy in a high-street chemist.

Well for a start, heroin can and is prescribed in high street chemists under certain circumstances, and indeed consumed. Other very strong, very addictive, very dangerous drugs, such as Tramadol and Fentanyl, are also prescribed in high street chemists. So just saying that what's provided and prescribed in a high street chemist is safe and everything else isn't, this is not helpful information for young people. They can work this stuff out.

And alcohol, entirely legal, is provided in this very place, Mister Deputy Speaker, yet it is deadly for many. It is a leading cause of breast and bowel cancer -- cause, not correlation, Mister Deputy Speaker, a cause, and a contributing factor to violence and depression. But at least with alcohol there is information and regulation. For consumers of illegal substances this does not exist. But people, I believe, would prefer to know what they were consuming rather than not.

And ironically, drug safety testing, such as that the Loop, means that people intending to consume illegal drugs at festivals are given much more safety information and many more informations for referral to treatment than those consuming the legal drug of alcohol at festivals.

Now, drug safety testing -- I would like that to be corrected as well, but that is for another day. Drug safety testing takes dangerous substances out of circulation, it reduces risk, it prevents harm, and it makes festivals and clubs safer and nicer places to be.

All drugs, legal or otherwise, have risks, but people still use them. When they know what is in a substance they are intending to take, this gives them information. And again, this applies whether they are legal or illegal. When an illegal substance is tested a project like the Loop, by trained scientists, they can't get that sample back, as I said, but instead, they get accurate information about drug contents and safety.

Giving everyone clear information about the substances they intend to consume does not make it easier to take illicit substances and nor does it eliminate all risk. Alcohol licensing and labeling still don't prevent all alcohol-related harms. But providing information about illegal drugs can be done within our current laws, the Bristol experience has shown us.

Other police forces, councils and festivals are not clear on how to do this, however, and here the Government can help. There is no need to change or review the law, simply to remove the grey -- to provide clarity on the grey areas that some police forces are finding difficulty with, to provide formal recognition of the status quo, and ensure that all relevant parties -- police forces, festival organizers and local councillors, the licensing bodies -- know this.

I believe that clubs, night clubs, could also be asked to contribute to the drug safety testing in city centers that we wish to see, certainly my colleagues and I wish to see. And that could be a part of their licences that they should work with the police, the council, and drug projects to help save lives and take dangerous substances out of circulation, and I would say, perhaps by contributing to the funding for that as well, also with public health.

In an ideal world, what I would like, and I would like the Minister to consider, is that all licences for such festivals, and if possible all clubs, are only made on condition that there is drug safety testing available, and for licence holders to work with the police, public health, the night time economy, drug treatment and safety organisations to fund and ensure this.

But the Government needs to get behind it, not stand on the side lines, because drug safety testing deserves Government clarity and support. Young people deserve that clarity and support, and the parents of those young people also deserve that clarity and support.

And so I therefore, Mister Deputy Speaker, conclude by asking two, I hope, simple questions for the Minister, which I hope he'll able to answer today, or if not I would be very willing to meet him to discuss them further.

I ask him will he commit to supporting formal recognition that drug safety testing is a matter for local police forces, and that the current system of local memorandums of understanding between the police, the testing organization, the event management and other stakeholders is an appropriate and adequate mechanism for service delivery? And will he issue guidance to that effect?

But also, Mister Deputy Speaker, I ask him if he would consider exploring how this model could be more widely extended, particularly to nightclubs on the weekends, as honorable Members have mentioned, but perhaps elsewhere as well? I know that the legislation may need clarification. It is not my intention today to be prescriptive about how it's done, but my understanding is that existing legislation is sufficient but that there needs to be clarity.

Mister Deputy Speaker, drugs cost lives, legal or otherwise, and information helps save lives. Why would we not provide life-saving information? I say it's time to test. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Thangam Debbonaire, Member of Parliament from the Labour Party, speaking in the House of Commons on July Sixth about drug safety testing at music festivals. If only we had members of Congress who had the courage to speak out about their convictions in the same way that members of the UK Parliament do. Hopefully some day soon.

You are listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of

Well, I had the chance to speak with my good friend Ngaio Bealum recently. He is a comedian, he's a writer, he's a political activist, and he is a brilliant, brilliant guy and a very good friend. Let's just get to that interview, shall we?

So this new show you've got, Cooking on High.


DOUG MCVAY: It's a -- it's a weed cooking show. What --

NGAIO BEALUM: Yeah, it's almost like Chopped with cannabis.

DOUG MCVAY: Okeh, so you -- you are the chronnissuer of the -- ?

NGAIO BEALUM: I am the chronnissuer. I'm the maitre d'ganja. The weedmaster. I introduce the strains that chefs will be using that day, and I talk about the effects and the flavors and the taste, and then I sit in with the judges and the cooks and discuss food and marijuana, which are two of my favorite things.

DOUG MCVAY: And, and so the -- you have a couple of competing chefs. Is it a progressive competition, are people eliminated through the thing, is it just like cook-offs, how does it work?

NGAIO BEALUM: It's like a cook-off. It's a fifteen minute episode, so it's not very long so we don't have to, like, Chopped's an hour long so those guys do three or four different dishes. We don't have very long, so we introduce a theme, maybe it's Mexican food, or fast food, or munchies, or what about breakfast, wake and bacon, and then the chefs -- then we introduce the strain that they're going to use, and the chefs start cooking. And we talk, and joke, and have a good time, and then we eat food, and decide a winner.

DOUG MCVAY: Okeh, so, the judges, where do these folks come from, what kind of judges have you got?

NGAIO BEALUM: They come from a variety of different spots, we have a bunch of comedians, we have a few rappers, and musicians. It's mostly musicians, mostly rappers and comedians, so Ramone Rivas is on the show, he's hilarious. Warm Brew, a hip hop group out of Los Angeles. Mod Sun, a white boy rapper, you heard me, white boy rapper out of LA, is on the show. Holly -- what's her name? -- Holly [sic: Heather] Pasternak is also on the show, she's very funny as well. And just a bunch of different people, we have a variety of folks.

DOUG MCVAY: And, the chefs, where do these folks come from, where are you getting your chefs from?

NGAIO BEALUM: They come from all over. Chef Mike has been a mainstay on Cannabis Planet, which is a show I used to be on, for years and years and years. Andrea Drummer lives in Los Angeles, and she does cannabis infused dinner parties, and she's a great, great chef. Brandon Coates went to the Cordon Bleu, and he's an LA chef. They mostly come from the LA area, because that's where we shot it, but these guys, they're all fantastic. Some of them have even been on Chopped, and other TV shows, and they're all great chefs, and the cooking is very top notch.

DOUG MCVAY: Very cool. I've seen a couple of episodes. Informative, you're going into some of the bits about cannabis, and explaining to folks CBD versus THC. Tell me more about your role.

NGAIO BEALUM: Like I said, so, I'm like the weed professor. So, they introduce the theme, and then I show up with the marijuana, and I'll say something like, this is an Amnesia Haze, full-bodied sativa, it will give you the buzzy effect, it's not known for couch lock. Look for notes of pinene, maybe just a hint of lemon in it, and then we talk about it like that.

DOUG MCVAY: Very cool. Oh, can't forget the host. The host?


DOUG MCVAY: That's him.

NGAIO BEALUM: Hilarious, and he's buff. You ever seen that guy with his shirt off? Oh my god. He's a Youtube sensation, he does a lot of sketches and things on Youtube. They got him for the show. He's excellent. Big fan.

DOUG MCVAY: Very cool. Very cool. Yeah, if folks haven't seen it yet, it's Cooking On High, it's on Netflix, and it's funny. And it's very cool. It's not as much food porn as some of the cooking shows, you're not going to see quite as much of the -- you talk more about that one ingredient than the rest, but that's -- there's plenty of food porn out there. This is a different variety.

NGAIO BEALUM: Yeah, you know, in a lot of ways, it's just like a kick back with good cooking. I mean, it's definitely a competition, like, people want to win and everybody cooks hard, but it's not the crazy high-pressure countdown clock. You know, we're all kind of stoned and laid back, so we're all going to get it done, but we're not really going to stress out about it. But the cast do go very hard. It's a really good time. Very funny, very informative, especially if you don't know anything about weed, or even if you know a little bit about weed, we still try to create a good form of edutainment, I guess would be the way to put it.

DOUG MCVAY: Very cool. Well, congratulations again, it's a great show. I'm glad to see you doing it.

NGAIO BEALUM: Thanks, man. I really appreciate it. Please, everybody watch the show. Watch the episodes all the way through because it helps the algorithm. We're trying to get a second season.

DOUG MCVAY: Terrific. Now, while I've got you --


DOUG MCVAY: California is --

NGAIO BEALUM: California.

DOUG MCVAY: California is your home, and July First, everybody was supposed to have their shelves cleared of untested -- basically, well, basically everybody had to clear their shelves on July First. What the heck is going on -- what's going on down there?

NGAIO BEALUM: Well, they're trying to make sure that every shop has tested marijuana. Right? Because you don't want anyone smoking marijuana that hasn't been tested, besides the fact that people have been smoking untested marijuana for decades without harmful effects.

I mean, one of the reasons that California's marijuana industry boomed so much in the '70s was the DEA was spraying paraquat on the fields in Mexico and other places, and so California growers didn't want to smoke chemically laced weed, so they started growing more weed up in Humboldt County and all around the state.

But that's the deal, is they -- there's new packaging regulations, is one of the things, right? So, you can't really do it deli style anymore, where you have the big jar of marijuana and you could smell it, and they'd pull out a couple of nugs for your eighth or your gram or whatnot.

So everything has to be prepackaged, and everything has to be tested, and so they didn't want anyone selling any untested marijuana. It's kind of ridiculous, and so, anyone who has any untested marijuana left after July First has to "destroy" it. I say that in quotes, because we all know the best way to destroy marijuana is to place it in your portable incendiary pot eradicator, commonly referred to as a pipe, and burn it, many small bits at a time.

That's probably the best way to do it. And so all the clubs have been scrambling to get their stock back up. Right? Because the -- as you can imagine, all the labs have a backlog, because everyone is trying to get their marijuana on the shelves, and there's not enough labs to deal with all the marijuana that they're trying to get -- or cannabis that they're trying to get into the stores, and so it's been a little bit of a bottleneck, not quite a cluster-f, but definitely a bottleneck and a slowing.

I mean, half of me is really upset, it's ridiculous, I think that the BCC [Bureau of Cannabis Control] has kind of gone out of their way to make everything as difficult as possible. It's almost like they're trying to recreate prohibition through over-regulation, or perhaps making it so that only people with vast amounts of time and money can follow these new strict rules correctly.

And half of me is also like, listen you guys, we're all spoiled now. Right? There's -- you go to a place and if they only have eight different kinds of weed, and you get upset like those guys only had eight different kinds of pot. Hey, man, and I'm sure you know, Doug, when we were younger and the weed man came over, there were two different kinds of weed. There was take it, and there was leave it. And that's all you had, so, I mean, the stores still have marijuana.

They still have, maybe not the bounty that they had before, but if you were paying attention, you -- everybody had a fire sale, man, the clearance sales were crazy. Weed was flying off the shelves prior to July First because everybody was trying to sell off their last inventory before they had to destroy it. So, I mean, there's a yin and a yang, but I think the BCC could be doing a better job.

We don't want to end up like Washington state or Colorado, for crying out loud, we're California.

DOUG MCVAY: So, what other stuff do you have on your radar, what kind of things are happening? I know you're going to be at Hempfest coming up on August 17, 18, and 19, of course, up in Seattle.


DOUG MCVAY: What else you got going?

NGAIO BEALUM: I'll be there. I'll be at the International Cannabis Business Conference in Portland September 28th and 29th. I have various comedy shows up and down California this month and next. I will be in Nashville at the end of July at Zanies in Nashville, with my good friend Brian Posehn. That will be a fun and stony time.

And just all various other stuff. Find me on the social media, @NGAIO420, and that will put -- you'll be able to keep in touch on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook, and all those other good things. And watch my show on Netflix, Cooking On High!

DOUG MCVAY: Very cool. Again we've been speaking with Ngaio Bealum, he is a comedian, a journalist, an activist, and a brilliant, brilliant guy, and --


DOUG MCVAY: And I'm proud to call him my friend. When you get up to Portland, we're going to go out and have a, at least a beer, or possibly a coffee. Or possibly both.

NGAIO BEALUM: At least a beer and a coffee, and some weed. We'll just do the holy trinity of soft drugs.

DOUG MCVAY: That works for me.

NGAIO BEALUM: The triumvirate. It's my new favorite word. You've got it, man. It'll be great. All right, thanks a lot, Doug, I'll talk to you soon, man.

DOUG MCVAY: Thank you, Ngaio. Cheers.

NGAIO BEALUM: Take care. Bye.

DOUG MCVAY: Again, that was my interview with Ngaio Bealum. He is a star on a new Netflix TV series called Cooking On High. It's a funny show, and it's entertaining and it's informative. You should check it out.

For now, that's it. You've been listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of

The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available via podcast, the URLs to subscribe are on the network home page at

The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember: Knowledge is power. Follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

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

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