01/16/24 Impact of Marijuana Policies

Century of Lies
Shaleen Title
The National Academies of Sciences

This week on Century of Lies: Public Health, Social, and Equity Impact of Marijuana Policies. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on the Public Health Consequences of Changes in the Cannabis Policy Landscape held its third full meeting January 11 and 12. These sessions featured presentations and panel discussions covering various aspects of the social and equity implications of marijuana policy. We hear from one of the presenters, Shaleen Title, Founder and Director of the Parabola Center. Plus we talk with Sheila Vakharia PhD MSW, Deputy Director of the Department of Research and Academic Engagement at the Drug Policy Alliance, about drug exceptionalism and her new book “The Harm Reduction Gap: Helping Individuals Left Behind by Conventional Drug Prevention and Abstinence-only Addiction Treatment.”

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09/12/23 Reschedule or Deschedule?

Century of Lies
Shaleen Title
Parabola Center

This week on Century of Lies: Reschedule or Deschedule? The Drug Enforcement Administration is set to review marijuana’s placement in Schedule One. To learn more we hear from Shaleen Title, Founder and Director of the Parabola Center. Plus: a new report by the UK House of Commons Home Affairs Committee recommends a major overhaul of UK drug laws, endorses harm reduction, and calls for setting up a pilot safe consumption site in Scotland. We get an update plus reaction from Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf.

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01/23/19 Shaleen Title

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Shaleen TItle

Shaleen Title is a Massachusetts Cannabis Commissioner who wrote an OpEd in Boston Globe call for end of drug prohibition

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JANUARY 23, 2019


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

Hi folks, this is Dean Becker and this is Cultural Baggage. Thank you for being with us today. Here in just a little bit, we're going to bring in our guest, Shaleen Title. She's appointed by the Massachusetts governor to serve on the commission, named to the Boston Business Journal's list of 50 most powerful people in Boston.

She is now a Cannabis Commissioner up that a way, and with that, I want to go ahead and welcome our guest, Shaleen Title. Hello, Shaleen.

SHALEEN TITLE: Hi, Dean, thanks for having me on.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, it's good to hear your voice again. Folks don't necessarily know how we originally met up. That was when we were both working for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, who have now changed their name to Law Enforcement Action Partnership. But, the -- making some great strides along that way as well, right?

SHALEEN TITLE: Yes. Can you believe it's been ten years?

DEAN BECKER: Wow. Kind of, and no, at the same time. I'll tell you what, what caught my attention, what was it, a month ago, was it two months ago, you had that write-up in the Boston Globe?

SHALEEN TITLE: Yeah, maybe six weeks ago.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, and just today, The Economist, the London Economist, I think it's called [sic: The Economist magazine], just came out with, oh, here we go. Anyway, I can't find the note, but they just came out with a mostly like an editorial, and I want to play just a little bit of that for you, then we're going to come back and get your continuances of this thought.

VOICE: Thought. Drug laws are not based on scientific evidence, but rather political expediency, paranoia, and ignorance. After fifty years of failure and escalating problems worldwide, a radical change in our oversight with how to deal with this social problem is to learn from the lessons of the past fifty years and create a carefully regulated system, which is flexible and aims at protecting health and wellbeing, respecting individual freedoms, educating and caring for those who have fallen into misuse.

DEAN BECKER: All right. I think they had a robot reading that. They were certainly making some good points, were they not?

SHALEEN TITLE: I couldn't agree more. I think The Economist has been great about this. They've been positive since, like we were saying, ten years ago, I think they've been one of the most sensible voices on drug policy.

DEAN BECKER: Right, and, you had another letter to the editor published just about a week ago, as well, kind of underscoring the need for medical cannabis, or for cannabis, I believe it was, but this one that, as you say, came out, was published six or so weeks ago in the Boston Globe, a massive, massive editorial, or op-ed, I guess you would call it.

One of the things they asked you, they said, how did you come to support the legalization and regulation of all drugs. Now, I know the answer to that, but share it with my audience, please.

SHALEEN TITLE: Well, it was out of concern and care for people who use drugs, for the same reasons that a lot of well-intentioned people support prohibition, that ultimately I think people who need help, who have problematic relationships with drugs, should be able to access things that work, treatment, prevention, education, these things work.

Criminalization does not work, and we have tried it for so long, and it's time to try a new approach. And I think that that rationale is really widespread right now around cannabis. Throughout the country people understand those arguments and principle that legal market and legal regulation is better than prohibition for everybody, whether you use the drug or not, or care about it or don't.

But, I think it's a good time to talk about the fact that all of those arguments apply to other drugs as well, even if the regulation system looks very different. Obviously you wouldn't have a heroin store. Most people wouldn't want that the same way you'd want a cannabis store, but, prohibition doesn't work, period, and I think it's okeh to start talking about that.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed it is. A week or two ago, I had Neill Franklin, our, well, your former boss, he's still my boss, I guess, and we were talking about this same thing, and I guess what I'm beginning to observe is, many of the Democratic candidates, you know, opting or indicating they're going to run for president, are starting to speak a little more boldly, a little more courageously, that we've got to change our perspective, our attitude, and our focus, insofar as this drug war, that we're off base.

They're even beginning to sound a little bit like LEAPers, talking about we're empowering terrorists, cartels, and gangs, but they don't seem to have much of an idea of what we should do about it. You know, I guess the main thing is we've just got to quit doing what we've been doing. Right?

SHALEEN TITLE: Yeah. And, I could not be respectful of LEAP, Neill Franklin being one of my mentors since the beginning, and so many of the speakers that I've met, like you, because, when you have the courage to go out and speak the truth, and not care about what everyone else is saying or how they'll react, you can pull the conversation in the direction that it needs to go.

And you can see how that has happened. When we started in 2009, people weren't even using the word legalization, because --

DEAN BECKER: The "L" word.

SHALEEN TITLE: -- it was radical at the time, right, it was the L word. You were supposed to say regulate. But, the police officers and the judges and the other law enforcement officials said no, I'm going to tell the truth, let's be straight about what we're talking about, and why.

And I think that, yes, it takes time, but as you move the conversation in the right direction you start to see what we're seeing now, and, yeah, then you move to the next step. So the first step is what we're doing now isn't working, and the second step is what does a responsible system look like, and then I think we'll just find, I don't know, a year, two years from now, suddenly that's the sensible thing, and the people in the mainstream will act like they supported it all along, just like they have with harm reduction efforts like Narcan.

I remember when Narcan was considered radical and people were saying, you know, if you use a life saving drug on people who have overdosed, you will be enabling drug users. And now of course, because it's been proven to be so effective and saved so many lives in so many different communities, police officers carry it with them, and nobody even remembers that it was controversial.

So those first few brave people, I think, play a huge role.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed they do. You know, we keep hearing this story, we need a wall, we need a wall, we need a wall, and the fact of the matter is the number of refugees has gone down, I think it was 46 percent, in the last ten years, that if there was ever a need it's certainly not now.

And I guess what I'm leading to is that they talk about all of these people coming northward, seeking a job, and perhaps they do want a job, but more than anything they want to live. Talk to that situation please, Shaleen.

SHALEEN TITLE: Oh my gosh, yeah, I wouldn't know where to start. When you imagine problems, you make up problems that don't exist because you're trying to fulfill some agenda, you can see that repeat in so many different areas of society, and certainly the wall is one example.

Certainly drug prohibition is another example. No doubt it was not, marijuana was not made illegal because of public health concerns, even though that's how people act now. It was to advance a racist agenda.

And there are so many other places where problems that are not real are being created and imagined. I think voter fraud is another one, so that you can disenfranchise people and particularly black and brown people, in an attempt to change election results.

And so we have to be skeptical and ask, is there really a problem here? Or are we making it up for an agenda? And that's something I see as a regulator, as well. And sometimes it's really difficult to be the one to bring that up, when you're talking about something that people just accept as a problem.

Robberies around cash being used in dispensaries, for example, or accidents because of impaired driving. Obviously, nobody wants to see those things happen, and you don't want to be someone who is acting dismissive or callous about those concerns, but, you have to ask, is there really a problem here to address, or are we creating new problems by being too quick to put supposedly preventative measures in place that might violate people's rights or cause other unintended consequences, just so it looks like you're doing something.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Now, one of the reasons I wanted to speak with you, of course, is the, your stance in regards to the drug war, the eternal prohibition, if you will. But, also, additionally, as I indicated early on, you are a Cannabis Commissioner there in the state of Massachusetts. Please tell us, I don't know, the details of your job, if you will, to start.

SHALEEN TITLE: Sure. So, it's a full time position at a brand new agency established when the marijuana legalization law passed in Massachusetts in November 2016. This Commission was established with five commissioners from five diverse perspectives on purpose: public health, public safety, business, government regulation, and social justice, and I hold the social justice seat.

So every decision that we make about regulation, or about licensing, or anything else, we do in public from those five perspectives. And so that's Massachusetts's way of trying to be true to all of the different priorities that we have in implementing this law.

So we've now issued a hundred provisional business licenses, I think about twenty final licenses, there are a few stores opened, we're going to keep up the pace in 2019, you'll see marijuana retail stores opening all over Massachusetts. If you're over 21 you can come and visit, if you want to see one, what it looks like, and hopefully we will slowly begin to see the problems related to prohibition minimized.

DEAN BECKER: And, I think this is taking place all around the country. What is it, ten, eleven states now legalized, and thirty something medicalized, is that a rough guess?

SHALEEN TITLE: I think it's -- I think it's more than that, I think we were the tenth state to legalize and there've been more since.


SHALEEN TITLE: I think, depending on how you define medical, almost all states have some sort of medical use allowed.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Well, Texas almost does. But, speaking of which, I wanted you to share with the Texas reformers, you know, I'm hoping that we can carve out another step or two this go-around. We have a very bare minimum law right now, where little kids with Dravet's Syndrome epilepsy can use CBD only, below point three percent THC, I think it is.

And this is good, it's an experiment, it's a tiny step along the way, but, I think in order to prove the point that marijuana is beneficial, you have to make use of the whole shooting match, all the chemicals contained therein, to glean the full benefit. Your thought in that regard, Shaleen.

SHALEEN TITLE: I agree. I mean, I think the whole plant is medicine, and less important than what I think, it's what medical professionals think. It should be up to the patient and the doctor.

I think that most people tend to understand that, you know, we shouldn't legislate those decisions. I also would just tell the Texas reformers, stay focused and stay positive, because I swear it feels like the change happens overnight.

I've done this in several states now, Colorado, and then I've been visiting different states to try and testify for better, more inclusive laws, and then here in Massachusetts, seeing decrim pass in 2008, medical pass in 2012, and then legalization in 2016.

Now we're at a point where supporting retail stores and the will of the voter is seen as the common sense, mainstream position, and then there are people that are pushing for more. And so, I would just tell reformers to keep consistent, and keep in mind that it doesn't matter that there's so much conflicting evidence around the benefits and harm of marijuana.

You can really cherrypick any data and make any case that you want. But it doesn't matter. Any potential harm that's caused by it is far outweighed by the harms of prohibition and stigmatization, and criminalization.

And in addition, with each state that legalizes, there's more data out that shows that the sky doesn't fall, and in fact there are benefits. So, we take that pretty seriously in Massachusetts, whatever data we collect and are required to collect by the law, we want to make sure that other states have it and that it's certified by our agency and it's reliable.

So, by all means, feel free to stay on top of what Massachusetts is doing. Our website is, and I know that every state that does this, it's such a difficult process, we want to be helpful to the next ones.

DEAN BECKER: Please, check it out, friends. Well, there's so much we can do. I'm going to go up there early next month, there's going to be a couple of busloads of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, I think at least one or two buses showing up.

You know, they're going to be talking, you know, medical, advance on what we have, maybe, a little bit of decrim, and I'm going to be wearing a shirt that says Legalize Heroin Like Switzerland.

They have now twenty years, tens of millions of injections, and zero overdose deaths. Paranoia is a bigger killer than these drugs at times. What's your thought there, Shaleen?

SHALEEN TITLE: I think focusing on the number of overdose deaths, I mean, how can you be any more persuasive than that? I mean, I think all of us who, I have very robust conversations with people here about safe injection facilities and the legal status of heroin, but ultimately, there is a big crisis with people dying and people want that to stop.

So, if it has stopped in Switzerland, I mean, what else do you need to know, from my perspective?

DEAN BECKER: Well, I was over there early this year, I guess it was March, got to tour a couple of their injection facilities, I got to meet up with the designer of their heroin injection program. Yeah. Something over twenty million injections so far, and zero deaths.

It's proving a point, I think, and our politicians just need to take a look around. Don't listen to that hundred year old propaganda anymore. It's not doing us any good, is it?

SHALEEN TITLE: No. And no matter how much of a resurgence there is of that reefer madness, in particular, I think that it's not doing much good.

DEAN BECKER: And, it is my theory that reefer madness wrapped around all drugs, heroin, cocaine, meth, you name it, it's all attached to every drug, this thought that it's going to lead you to harder drugs, and killing babies, and whatever else, I don't know.

But, we have, I think, a rare opportunity in this country to really, with this new election cycle, the 2020 presidential go around, to really open up this can of worms and go fishing for truth, and I'm hoping that these politicians will push each other.

My friend Beto O'Rourke, he kind of broached this subject, wrote a book on legalizing marijuana. Once he started running for that Senate seat, he kind of backed away, and I've been teasing him that, you know, he's becoming like all these other politicians, unwilling to face down this toothless lion. Your response there, Shaleen Title.

SHALEEN TITLE: I'm very excited about this upcoming cycle, because there are so many candidates, and I think we shouldn't settle. I mean, a vote is a really important, precious thing. People have died for our right to vote, and we should have high standards, and we should force, you know, however many end up in the pool, the serious pool at the end, 20 or more, we should force all of them to defend their past positions and to be clear about how they feel about all these issues now, Beto included.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Now, your state is, how to say it, still in the process of setting up all the dispensaries and the permits and all this, but you are beginning to have retail sales?

SHALEEN TITLE: That's right. I believe we have six retail stores open now, and the more that get open, the fewer problems we're seeing with traffic and other concerns, because of course, now people are starting to have more accessibility and more choices. So, we're going to keep going that route.

DEAN BECKER: Now, I don't know how attuned you are to the situation in Canada, but, you know, this year, what was it, just last year, October, they legalized, got close to legalized, I guess, I'm going to say.

But they still, they increased their police manpower, their funding, and perhaps they're going to increase the number of arrests despite the fact that it's now legal. We have to be careful how we put these laws, these legalization laws, together. Right?

SHALEEN TITLE: Oh my gosh, yes, and especially as you start to see more interest from big companies that want to take over the market, you will see such a difference in the way that legalization is implemented, and we have to pay very close attention to those details.

One thing I always look for is the right to home grow. I would never support a bill that doesn't include that, because it's such an important check on many different things, delays, and believe me I know delays are not intentional, we've had quite a few delays in Massachusetts that were not intentional, but during that time, people could still grow at home.

They don't have to go back to the illicit market. They don't have to be in violation of the law if they are growing at home. And then also, it's a real concern to me, if you only have a few companies that are dominating the market, then what would happen with prices, potentially, or with access, or with product variability, and having home grow protects against all of that.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and then we do have the other conundrum, the other situation, whereby they, the state wants to tax it, the county wants to tax it, the city wants to tax it, heck, I don't know, the neighborhood wants to tax it, and pretty soon you've got a product that's so overpriced, or at least in comparison to the black market, that the black market's never going to disappear. Your response, Shaleen.

SHALEEN TITLE: Yeah, I mean, I think that you're absolutely right. The way we set the tax rate is probably the biggest factor in how the underground market is affected. We have to keep very close tabs on that. I do think that there have been situations where the tax rate was too high, and it let the underground market flourish.

At the same time, you want to make sure that you can collect enough revenue to be able to cover the administrative costs and then have it, have more left over for the societal repair that we want to have. So I think at this point we've done, I know it was a very thoughtful job setting the rates in Massachusetts, but we're trying to make sure we stay on top of how the underground market is affected, and if it needs to be adjusted, I'm sure that the legislature will take a look at that.

I'll say, too, in response to Canada, I've been there a couple of times and talked to a few people in equivalent positions. Once you are able to take away the problems related to federal illegality, it's a completely different job to regulate.

It's something that, we're so used to it, we forget, but imagine if, you know, insurance can cover it, if, you know, schools could research, because they wouldn't have to worry about being blocked, if you could use the mail, like they do in Canada. It's a completely different world.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I agree with that. You know, I'm going to go back to the piece you had in the Boston Globe. They asked, I guess these were questions they were asking you, or maybe these are questions you put forward and then responded to, but, what would it actually look like? The government selling drugs in brown paper bags without any marketing? How, what would it look like?

SHALEEN TITLE: Yeah. So, no, I didn't put forward those questions. It was a Q and A. And when I got that question I did laugh a little bit, because it reminded me of when we used to get that question at LEAP. At least, that was probably the most common question is, okeh, but then what does legalization look like?

And I said the same thing that I said then, which is that it doesn't have to be done overnight. It can be careful, and it can be phased, and most importantly, it can be adjustable based on the feedback that we're getting and the data that we're collecting.

And that's how we're handling marijuana regulation, too. There are a couple of license types that have been delayed because there were more public safety and public health concerns from experts, and that's cannabis cafes and delivery licenses.

And so, our agency decided to start with small, basically pilot programs, so that we can collect data, make sure that's public, and then make decisions on whether to expand and how much to expand based on that data, and not based on the imaginary concerns.

And so if you take that same concept, it doesn't matter what drug you're talking about. Something like coffee could be sold in a grocery store, something like heroin would have to be very strictly regulated, and then you have everything in between, but the common theme is, A, you're not arresting anybody, you're not throwing anybody in jail, and B, you're developing a system that's appropriate and that is adjustable based on the data you're getting back.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and, right, and I would, I think you've probably indicated as much, but the in between stuff, pure heroin, you know, poppy juice, I think it ought to be available first and foremost, to keep people from getting into the harder stuff, to perhaps keep them from getting addicted.

I want coca leaves at the Kroger store, you know. I think we need to make these lesser drugs available. Put the coca back in the cola, you know what I'm saying? That there are better means of distributing these drugs than through the hard powders and such. Right?

SHALEEN TITLE: Well, I think it's -- it depends on the purpose, and if you're using something medically, I think that all different options should be available to the medical professional.

But in general, I think everyone can agree that a unadulterated, tested, regulated substance is better than something you buy on the street when you don't know what it is.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, and we're about to wrap up here. Once again, folks, we've been speaking with Shaleen Title, she's a Cannabis Commissioner up in the state of Massachusetts. She had a great piece in the Boston Globe, talking about the need to control all these drugs.

And I often talk about that, Shaleen. They talk about controlled substances. These substances have never been under control. It is trying to control the people who use the substances. Your closing thoughts, please.

SHALEEN TITLE: Yes, absolutely, it's about controlling people, it's never about the drugs, and if you look at marijuana, it was made illegal because supposedly Mexican people were using marijuana and being lazy in California, supposedly Hindus were using it and making white people use it, and the same thing with Chinese people and opium, and the examples go on and on. It's never been about drugs.

You're absolutely right, it's been about a system of control of people, and keeping them down, and it's time for that to end.

DEAN BECKER: Well, indeed it has. Again, Shaleen, I want to give you a chance to close out here, is there a website, what might you want to pep up the Texas folks about the marijuana laws and what they should take to Austin.

SHALEEN TITLE: Yes, so, two things. The Cannabis Control Commission website,, has all of our information. We take transparency very seriously, so take a look. I hope that you'll find Massachusetts a good starting point for information.

And then, if you want to follow me personally, I'm very active on social media, and particularly on twitter. My handle is @ShaleenTitle. If you have questions or comments, I'm always very happy to take those on twitter.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Thank you very much, Shaleen. We'll hope to be in touch soon.

SHALEEN TITLE: All right. Thanks a lot, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Bye bye.

Pipe dreaming warriors raise their eternal chant, ancing for rain in the eye of a drug war hurricane.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Decreased sex drive, excessive milk whether nursing or not, loss of menses, hallucination, aggression, depression, hepatic impairment, renal impairment, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sleep apnea, rebound insomnia, withdrawal, new feelings of depression. Time's up! From Takeda Pharmaceutical, they say it doesn't have the side effects of Lunesta, the answer: Rozerem, for a good night's sleep.

You have been listening to Cultural Baggage here on the Drug Truth Network, Pacifica Radio, coming out of KPFT, the mother ship of the Drug Truth Network, and I want to thank Shaleen Title for her expertise and her understanding and her help in giving us the right direction here.

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

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

09/06/18 Shaleen Title

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Shaleen Title
Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission

Shaleen Title, Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commissioner, Dominic Holden reporter for Buzzfeed re White House propaganda, US Rep Beto O'Rourke speaks at prayer breakfast & advice from beyond the grave from George Carlin

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

Hello, folks, welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. I am Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High. Today, we're going to hear from Shaleen Title, from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. We're going to hear from Dominic Holden, who's now a reporter with BuzzFeed. We're going to hear the thoughts of Beto O'Rourke, when he attended a Houston prayer breakfast. And from beyond the grave, we'll hear some closing thoughts from Mister George Carlin.

Here we go.

Over the last few weeks, we've been looking at what has happened in various states around the country. We heard what happened in Oklahoma, where they have a new medical marijuana law that's coming into play. We heard last week from Debby Goldsberry out in California, where Big Marijuana, based in Canada, seems to be taking over the industry out there.

And today, we're going to hear from a Commissioner of the Cannabis Control Commission up there in Massachusetts, a long time friend and ally, Shaleen Title. Hello, Shaleen.

SHALEEN TITLE: Hi. Thanks for having me on, Dean, I'm a long time fan of your show.

DEAN BECKER: Well, thank you very much. Let's -- let's do a little background first off. You and I first met when you were working for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Correct?

SHALEEN TITLE: Yes, back between 2009 and 2012.

DEAN BECKER: So we've been at this almost ten years now, and I guess the point I'd like to get to is that many folks have moved on. I spoke yesterday with Dominic Holden, who used to work for the Drug Policy Alliance, but he's now a reporter with BuzzFeed, and I guess what I'm saying is that, the drug reformers move on, take the experience they've gained, the knowledge they've gained, and share it in new ways to benefit and expand the possibilities, and that's what you've done there in Massachusetts. Correct?

SHALEEN TITLE: Yeah, I think that what I learned working at LEAP for those years, from Jack Cole and Neill Franklin and Steve Downing and so many others, is how to stand up for what you believe in, and not have to follow the mold of anyone else, and that you can be the first to do what you're trying to do, and I think that's how I ended up being appointed to help run the legalization program in Massachusetts.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and that's the thing, you actually have knowledge, boots on the ground knowledge, so to speak, you know the rationale, and the lack of rationale in many cases, behind these laws, and you're able to speak intelligently in that regard. Right?

SHALEEN TITLE: Yes. I have a long history, of course, in the cannabis movement, and then I also have done some legal and consulting work with marijuana businesses, so I have a sense of what the challenges are, and especially how it can be particularly different for them versus someone in any other industry.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh. Now, and I admit, I'm failing in this. I don't know the details, so I hope you'll fill us in on what the situation is in Massachusetts. Is the law in play? Are there dispensaries? What's going on, where are you at in implementing your drug law, your marijuana law?

SHALEEN TITLE: Absolutely. So, we have had, the last three presidential elections have all been big for marijuana in Massachusetts. So we passed decrim in 2008, we passed medical in 2012, and we passed legalization in 2016, all by ballot initiatives.

About, actually exactly a year ago, September First, our agency, the Cannabis Control Commission, was created from scratch to implement the law. And so, here we are a year later, we've just started issuing licenses. We have all of our regulations in place, we've held hearings, we're taking feedback from the public, and so the growers and manufacturers and stores should all be opening shortly, this year certainly.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, and I guess the -- what comes to mind, I'm looking at you guys' wonderful website, and there's a link here to Cannabis Control Commission launches first in the nation social equity program.

Now I know that cities like Oakland, California, are maybe doing something similar, but this is to be a statewide program. Please explain that to the listener.

SHALEEN TITLE: Yes, so, the idea there was, if we are going to have legalization in Massachusetts, we want the industry to equitable, because first of all that's just how all industries should be in my opinion, but particularly if you look at the way that prohibition has been enforced, unfairly against certain communities, with the data being so clear that black and Latino communities in particular have borne the brunt of prohibition, we have to address that.

And so our Commission has created an equity program where, if you can show that you're part of these communities, particularly based on where you live or if you have a drug conviction, or if your parent or spouse has a drug conviction, you're eligible for certain fee wavers and technical assistance so that we can try and make the industry as inclusive as possible.

DEAN BECKER: Well, that's good to hear, and certainly that's, I think that's the way it has worked around the country, that people of color have been impacted more severely by law enforcement than whites. A perfect example, I've been busted 13 times. I never spent more than 30 days behind bars, and I think that's because I'm white, because otherwise I'd still be behind bars. Your thought there, Shaleen.

SHALEEN TITLE: Wow. Yeah, I mean, I think, yeah, I think that the evidence is really clear, all around the country, that even though people of all races tend to use and sell drugs at roughly the same rates, that the enforcement is widely disparate. And even after you see decrim or legalization pass, even though the number of arrests, you know, can fall to almost nothing, they're still enforced unfairly against the same communities. That seems to be consistent.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Shaleen, I always had hopes of being a farmer, of providing, you know, lots of good cannabis for, you know, some good customers, and I'm looking at your Cannabis Control Commission page for guidance for farmers. I see that a licensee may have no more than one hundred thousand square feet of canopy across no more than three licenses. That, that will grow a lot of cannabis, a hundred thousand square feet. Tell us how it's going to work out for the cultivators.

SHALEEN TITLE: So, let me explain first where you can find that guidance. So, if you go to, and you click on Guidance, we have explainers on our equity program, on our required diversity plans, and our guidance for farmers. So if you want to see what we've done in plain language, I recommend checking that out.

So yeah, when it comes to cultivators, we are all in agreement as a Commission that we want to encourage small farmers, and we want to encourage outdoor farming. But I'm not going to lie, it's definitely been a challenge when you're trying to balance wanting to promote farmers, but then also the need to have a very tightly regulated system, where under the law, all of the plants, of course, have to be tracked, there are very tight security regulations.

And it's hard to make it affordable for a farmer, especially if they may only have, you know, one or two crops a year. It's not like in California, because our weather is so different. And so, if you look at the guidance for farmers, you can see what we've tried to do. We've tried to make it more accessible, we've tried to provide certain benefits for the smaller cultivators, under ten thousand square feet.

The fees are different, environmental, energy efficiency standards are a little more relaxed. So, we're trying to do them at -- I really hope that we can have a robust, thriving industry, where farmers are welcome and hopefully, you know, as the stigma decreases, they can grow cannabis just like any other plant.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh. Now, we are aware that in the legal states, you know, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, that there's excessive taxes being applied, that this in turn encourages or motivates the black market to stay in business, and how are you going to deal with that situation, going forward?

SHALEEN TITLE: Well, here in Massachusetts, I think that our tax rates have been set at a fairly reasonable level. Back in the ballot initiative, they would have been the lowest in the country, which I supported, but our legislature ended up increasing them to a total of 20 percent now, which I also, I think it's fine, I think it's reasonable, a lot of work went into calculating it.

My bigger concern is that in Massachusetts we have a unique system where every licensee has to get approval at both the state level and the local level, and currently there's no enforcement of how the business pays the city or town in which it locates.

And so, if that continues to go unchecked, that can provide some big barriers to entry, some big challenges in terms of costs on the business, that would then be passed on to the consumer. And so that would be a concern to me, in the same way that you've described the concerns of when the taxes are too high.

So that's something I'm definitely keeping an eye on, trying to draw attention to, trying to make sure that people in other states are aware of as they're building their own programs.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, Shaleen, so if I'm to understand, then, each county or commonwealth or whatever you guys call it up there, or even city I suppose, would be able to indicate what they want from a grower to set up in their town, township, whatever it might be, and that could vary county to county?

SHALEEN TITLE: Right. So bear with me, because it might sound technical for a second, but it's actually fairly straightforward. So in Massachusetts, every licensee has to get approval at the state level, but they also have to sign an agreement with the city or the town in which they will locate, and that agreement lays out the responsibilities between the community and the business.

That can include payments from the business to the city or town, but there are limits on how big those payments can be and how long they could last, so that we have a fair and consistent standard.

The problem that's happening in Massachusetts right now is that those limits are not being enforced. And so that is setting up a system where potentially we may have big marijuana companies coming in and essentially promising to make excessive payments to the city or the town, in exchange for licensure, and of course that would knock out the smaller competition, the businesses that are mom and pop businesses, the farmers, and so I'm trying very hard to make sure that that gets enforced, in one way or another.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Well friends, once again we're speaking with Shaleen Title. She's a Commissioner with the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. Again, I want to point out, last week I spoke with Debby Goldsberry out in Oakland, and she was talking about how many of the start-up companies have now folded, that the permits were too high, that the fees were too high, that the -- it just got to be too much, and many of them have folded up.

And she says that the big bucks now are coming from Canada, where it is already legal, nationally. And they are already on the stock market, and they have billions to invest here in these United States. Your thought to that circumstance, Shaleen.

SHALEEN TITLE: Well, here in Massachusetts, our five Commissioners are appointed in five different areas. Mine is social justice. There's public safety, public health, government regulation, and business, and we make all of our decisions from those five perspectives.

And to all of us, it's very important that legalization be a way to address all of the problems with the illicit underground market. That was the main thing that of course I learned at LEAP, when we worked together a decade ago.

Now, if we don't have a pathway for the people in the illicit market to now enter the legal industry, that is going to cause all sorts of problems. Where is that going to leave them? What's next for them? What happens with enforcement? And so, my focus is on creating that pathway, and that means making sure that the legal industry is accessible, that we don't have fees that are too high, that we're not allowing different loopholes to be created so that those big businesses can come in and knock out the smaller competition.

And that means paying attention every day, in all the different details, and ensuring that those pathways are clear. So yes, definitely, it's a big concern of mine, and I go into every decision that we make as a regulator considering that perspective.

DEAN BECKER: Well, really good. Well, Shaleen, I want to thank you for your time. I hope to stay in touch with you and re-assess this situation here in six months or so to see how this is unfolding, how it's working out for your state of Massachusetts. Is there a website you wanted to share, closing thoughts for the audience?

SHALEEN TITLE: Absolutely. Thank you for having me to check in, I'll be glad to do it regularly. If folks want to stay on top of what's happening, is our website. We're also on Facebook and Twitter, and then you can follow me personally too, to try to stay on top of what I'm finding important.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Shortened attention span, hyperactivity, obesity, diabetes, diagnostic diseases, kidney failure, heart disease, hypoglycemia, tooth decay, and death. Time's up! For the answer, look in every bag of Halloween candy, and in damn near every product we buy. Yep, it's sugar.

It's been many years since I've had the chance to talk to one of my long time friends, a gentleman who worked with the Drug Policy Alliance for many years [sic: Dominic has never worked for DPA], starting his career, but he's branched out now, he's back in New York, he's a political reporter for BuzzFeed, and he's still nailing it right through the head.

His latest, the one I caught, a story he had printed in BuzzFeed, was "A Colorado Senator Slammed Trump's Anti-Pot Committee," and with that I want to welcome my friend Dominic Holden. Hey, Dominic.

DOMINIC HOLDEN: Thank you so much for having me.

DEAN BECKER: Dominic, like I said, you're still at it, aren't you? You haven't given up on ending this stupid drug war.

DOMINIC HOLDEN: Well, I was an activist for many years, and then I got into journalism. I was at a weekly paper in Seattle called The Stranger. Now I'm at BuzzFeed, reporting on the federal government, looking at the Justice Department and the White House, and we've seen these documents that indicate there is a marijuana policy coordinating committee being run out of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, in the White House. That's known as the "Drug Czar's" office, casually.

And they have asked fourteen federal agencies and the DEA to hand over essentially data and documents that show the negative trends around marijuana. And what's sort of ironic is that the records show on the one hand, they complain about a one-sided narrative on marijuana in the country, that they think is too positive and too generous.

But they're only counteracting it with negative data, even if there might be positive data that these agencies could turn over. And so, it's a bit of an irony, that they believe that they can simply put out one-sided propaganda, whether this is the hope to change public policy at large, or to change the views of the president himself, it's not exactly clear. But their work is now underway, and has been at least since July.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Dominic, I kind of think this underscores what the -- I've always felt, I'm sure you have too, that there was a committee always back there in the back room somewhere, putting together information to show just negativity towards marijuana. I honestly believe that's been the case through every administration in my lifetime. Your thought there, please.

DOMINIC HOLDEN: You know, the Drug Czar's office, by charter, has to oppose legalization efforts and portray the harms of drugs. But what's interesting now is that the public opinion has shifted in the last fifteen years, even within the last few, since the first states, Colorado and Washington, legalized marijuana, to really support legalization.

And so we see the ONDCP moving at odds with public opinion. Trump himself had indicated that he wanted to support states with legalization laws, and so, the question is, you know, why does this continue to happen? Given the shifts around both the way voters and state governments are behaving.

DEAN BECKER: Well, that, and the results and the pronouncements of scientists and doctors that have come forward over the years. I'm greatly enamored with this Doctor Sanjay Gupta and the medical information he's brought forward, which has, I think, awakened many Americans to the legitimacy of cannabis as medicine, and I think that has helped to swing the situation. Your thought there, Dominic Holden.

DOMINIC HOLDEN: There seems to be no question that people understanding that there are medical benefits to marijuana has blunted, if you will, some of the propaganda and criticism from the government over the years.

You know, there was this campaign, it existed under Obama and certainly under George W. Bush, that marijuana should be illegal, and that it was a very dangerous drug with no medical benefit. But once you start to hear these stories, of people with cancer or chronic pain or epilepsy, finding some sort of relief, it may not convince people that legalization is in order, but certainly convinces them that the government is not terribly credible on this issue and open to thinking this out for themselves.

The changes we've seen in public attitudes since states have started to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use also goes to show that the claims, the forecasts, of mayhem and reefer madness and addiction that were promised by the government and legalization critics, simply haven't come to be now that we have eight test states where we can look and see, you know, that all of these doomsday forecasts simply didn't come to be.

DEAN BECKER: Ah, so true, so true. You know, I think about, even here in Houston, Texas, I have interviewed police -- I'm not going to name names, but they know who they are, a recent police chief who told me on air that they have relatives that benefit medicinally from the use of cannabis. So it's not a wild assumption anymore, it's known, endorsed, and it just gives me concern as to why they think they have to continue doing the negativity.

It reminds me a bit of a quote I know from former head of the CIA William Colby, he said, I'll get this close as possible, that the Latin cartels are controlling every aspect of government because there doesn't seem to be any sense in going down this road even one more step. Your thought, Dominic.

DOMINIC HOLDEN: I mean, it's hard to know. We had a relatively progressive federal administration under Obama. They were obviously somewhat critical of legalization but they didn't campaign against it. The Trump administration have carved out an unusual identity in contemporary politics in which they are simply overtly racist.

The president ran his campaign based on racism, he pushes racist policies, and this is really the core ethos of this administration. And drug enforcement disproportionately affects people of color.

So, you know, you could certainly say there is a racist interest on behalf of Trump in finding a way to marginalize and target and incriminate people of color for something they do at the same rates as white people.

But it's really difficult to know what is going on in their head. We don't know if this is something Trump is one hundred percent behind, we don't know if this is an effort from people within the federal government to attempt to influence the president's thinking, to try to get him on their side, since Trump hasn't shown an interest in cracking down on these states.

What we do know, based on our reporting, is that, you know, Trump could stop this. No one in the administration has denied that this is happening, and at this point, Trump is letting this committee continue.

So, we're going to have to keep an eye on it and see what happens next.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, my. Well, friends, we've been speaking with Mister Dominic Holden, long time friend of the Drug Truth Network, activist extraordinaire, he's now working as a news reporter for BuzzFeed, out there on the web at Any closing thoughts you'd like to share with the audience, Dominic?

DOMINIC HOLDEN: I just want to say thank you all for being here and supporting this great show.

DEAN BECKER: Last week, US Congressman Beto O'Rourke, from El Paso, running for Ted Cruz's Senate seat, was invited to speak to a gathering of ministers at a prayer breakfast. Here's one question offered to Beto.

VOICE: In the past, before -- back when Bush was president, we had more funds for mental illness. Mental illness accounts for not -- for not just being at Harris County but across this country, and now, all of a sudden, the attention is on prescription drugs, and it's getting more attention than ever for any illegal drugs, and the people who are doing the same thing that people do on illegal drugs except they get theirs from the pharmacy so they don't get any time. What is it you're going to do to remedy that? because that's a major problem for our community.

US REPRESENTATIVE BETO O'ROURKE: Thank you. We have an opioid addiction crisis in this country that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of our fellow Americans. And the story is almost stranger than fiction and hard for us therefore to believe, but the corporation, Purdue, that came up with these opioids, and marketed them to doctors and the pharmacists, and therefore to the American public, as non-addictive, though their internal studies found that in fact they were addictive.

This corporation, that has made billions of dollars, ultimately upon the suffering of hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans, has paid no real consequence or cost. Their CEOs are not in prison, their shareholders have not really had to pay any meaningful fine, and I contrast that with a low-level dealer of marijuana, or someone who is searched frankly because of the color of their skin and is found to have marijuana on them, who's going to be doing time in this country, that is purported to be the world's greatest democracy, that now hosts the largest prison population.

So, there has to be accountability, and justice, and no person, no man, no woman, is above the law. No corporation, importantly, is above the law. And here's what I've found, by listening to veterans, and some stood up earlier, and I also want to thank you for your service, by listening to doctors at the VA who take care of those veterans, they tell me, I don't want to be prescribing opioids to these veterans because I fear that they may become addicted to them.

We had a town hall with veterans in El Paso, veterans stood up and said, I was on opioids for five years, the VA cut off my prescription, I'm now buying heroin on the streets, the only way that I can take care of and medicate myself. Doctors at the VA in some cases want to be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis, and it's perhaps the one thing that can alleviate the symptoms of veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or the consequences of their exposure to Agent Orange back in Vietnam and today, they are criminals in the eyes of the law for being able to do that.

So, when I talked about criminal justice reform, it is not just expunging the arrest records of those who are in jail for possession of marijuana, it's not just ending the prohibition of marijuana, it's making sure that there is justice for those at the very highest levels of power in this country who have foisted a crisis of addiction on so many, and to date have not paid any price for it.

I want to make sure that healthcare means that every single one of us can see that doctor, that therapist, get that nutrition that we need to be at our best, and aren't having to self-medicate, get arrested on purpose to receive care that otherwise we should be able to count on as human beings in this country.

GEORGE CARLIN: In particular, it's fun to listen to Washington talk. Whenever the issue of term limits comes up, I always tell people, the only term limits I'm interested in would be to limit some of the terms used by politicians.

They speak of course with great caution, because they must take care not to actually say anything. Proof of this, according to their own words, is that they don't actually say things, they indicate them.

As I indicated yesterday, and as the president indicated to me, but sometimes they don't indicate, they suggest. Let me suggest that as I indicated yesterday, I haven't determined that yet. See, they don't decide, they determine.

If it's a really serious matter, they make a judgment. I haven't made a judgment on that yet. When the hearings are concluded I will make a judgment, or I might make an assessment. I'm not sure. I haven't determined that yet.

But when I do, I will advise you. They don't tell, they advise. I advised him that I had made a judgment. Thus far, he hasn't responded. They don't answer, they respond. He hasn't responded to my initiative. An initiative is an idea that isn't going anywhere.

DEAN BECKER: What's going on in Washington should give everyone concern. Again I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please, be careful.

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

06/07/18 Jodie James

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Jodie James
Shaleen Title
Florida Cannabis Action Network
Patients Out of Time

Jodie James of Florida Cannabis Action Network, Shaleen Title Commissioner on the Massachusetts Cannabis Commission & Matt Elrod re Canada's forthcoming legalization of cannabis + DTN Editorial

Audio file


JUNE 7, 2018


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

Hi folks, this is Dean Becker, in studio once again. Thank you for being with us. I have an editorial, Drug Truth Network editorial:

For nearly five hundred years, colonialist powers like England, Spain, and later the United States made it their business to impose their will on lesser countries, to force new religions and morals on all the heathen cultures of this earth.

In the process, they vilified and demonized the use of such drugs as marijuana, coca, and opium, which previously had been a recognized part of many religions, many cultures, for thousands of years.

Today, the United States, through its drug convention treaties, forces its ideas of Judeo-Christianity and all the attendant drug laws and morals on the whole world. US media now ignores the ongoing drug reform in England, France, Spain, Portugal, Canada, and much of the rest of the world.

Research, experience, and common sense have shown these enlightened countries that the medieval drug laws are a -- simply a mechanism that if left unchecked would someday devour the meaning, the very fabric, of liberty.

I ask all government leaders, all citizens, to please develop a rational approach to ending this drug war. Help rid the earth of this monster, spawned from a cesspool of hypocrisy. And now this.

Got some big news to announce. Just today, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Gardner announce the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States, or the STATES Act, the Senate's first ever bipartisan bill that would protect states that legalize marijuana. A companion bill in the House of Representatives, cosponsored by David Joyce and Earl Blumenauer, was also announced today.

The bills would protect states that legalize marijuana from federal interference, allowing individuals and business acting in compliance with state marijuana laws to operate without the threat of federal prosecution.

We'll have more on this on next week's show, but for now, this is Senator Elizabeth Warren:

US SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN: I think it's the attorney general who gave us the impetus to bring our colleagues together. When the attorney general said that he was going to start enforcing federal laws in places like Massachusetts that had just overturned the prohibition on marijuana, it spurred us to more immediate action, and to start to at least try to build the bridge, not between those who don't believe in legalization and those who do believe in legalization, but to say, let's take a practical step right now that we can take that reflects the will of the people of our home states.

And, it's gotten a lot of people engaged in a way that they weren't six months ago. Thanks to the attorney general, more people feel the urgency of the moment in changing federal law on marijuana. Go Jeff Sessions.

DEAN BECKER: You know, news is breaking all around the country, at the federal level, certainly, but on the state level, there are groups and associates, organizations, trying to legalize cannabis in one fashion or another, as they say, recreationally, more certainly for medical purposes.

There's legislators passing bills, there's voter referendums, and there's even judges rulings that are in effect, and here to talk about that from the Florida Cannabis Action Network, we have Ms. Jodi James. Hello, Jodi.

JODI JAMES: Hi, Dean, thanks for having me on your show again today.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, Jodi, it's -- there's just so much happening in regards to cannabis laws, interpretations, and votes, am I right?

JODI JAMES: It is an exciting time to be involved in this.

DEAN BECKER: Now, what's going on in Florida? There's a judge's ruling that's having an impact, right?

JODI JAMES: Well, certainly, it's got everybody at Florida Cannabis Action Network talking. Listeners who have been paying attention to Florida will remember that we passed an initiative two years ago. Now, that initiative gave people the right, if you were a qualified patient, to use cannabis under certain conditions.

One of those conditions is that you could only get cannabis from one of -- a licensed dispenser. Further, you could only get oils. So these were going to be processed products, tinctures, oils, vape cartridges, and obviously the cannabis community that I represent wanted no part of that.

One of our key members and past president, Cathy Jordan, who is a woman who's been living with Lou Gehrig's Disease since 1986, ended up being the lead plaintiff in a challenge to allow patients to use cannabis, the plant, however they needed to.

Still medical marijuana, so you still have to have a doctor that you're consulting with, but this breaks the program and will allow patients like Cathy or any other patient, for that matter, who believes that smoked cannabis, whole plant cannabis, is better for them than something that is processed.

Once this runs its appeals, we should see smoked cannabis in Florida.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, I'm proud to say that I've interviewed Ms. Cathy Jordan over the years, that I've had the opportunity to meet with her and her husband Bob, and to witness, truly, the astounding benefit that this has for Cathy Jordan, and I think the judges have recognized this. Anyone who has investigated her situation at all recognizes that fact immediately. Correct?

JODI JAMES: Absolutely. And, you know, one of the things that the state was arguing is that it is just too dangerous to use as a smoked product. And one of the things that they were arguing was that it wasn't necessary. And, as compelling as Cathy's testimony was, there was a woman by the name of Ms. Dobson, who had been part of a pain study, and she talked about being burned with a hot iron, and then using cannabis as part of a trial to find out if cannabis was effective for pain.

You know, when you start looking at what people have gone through over the years, to study this, to bring out the benefits of it, to overcome the rhetoric, I just think it's a great time. We win, we win, we win.

Bob Jordan sent me a text message when the judge's ruling came down. Bob and Cathy and I have been working together for more than 22 years, and the message was: we won, we won, we expletive won.

I told Bobby my problem with winning is that it means that we're still fighting, and I'm so sad that we still have battle after battle after battle. But at least I'm glad to be winning.

DEAN BECKER: Right, and you know, you've probably heard my thought over the years, incrementalism is a killer, and it certainly is, but it beats the hell out of nothing happening. And, I guess we should be happy in that regard.

And I look at it this way, Jodi, that the example that Cathy and Bob have set, with - through their courage, their commitment, their willingness to delve deep and get to the truth, is what will win it for all of us across this country, is being willing to admit that we use cannabis, that it benefits us, and that we're unafraid to speak about that benefit. I think that's where total success lies. Your thought there, Jodi James.

JODI JAMES: Absolutely. But you know what incrementalism has brought us, and you and I are on the same page with this, Dean, I just can't stand being an incrementalist and suddenly I find myself one. But, every step we take, there are more people who understand the beautiful value of this plant.

And they start becoming incrementalists, and suddenly you have the patient who had never tried cannabis six months ago, and now they're a firm believer and they're like, everybody should be using this.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. I was going to ask, the details on -- you mentioned that prior to this judge's ruling, that oils were the preferred method of the legislature. You know, I don't know the details, but I know that much of the black market cannabis oils is made incorrectly, is made with ingredients, is made with the possibility of further damaging the health of those making use of it. Your thought there, please.

JODI JAMES: You are so right, Dean, I'm always concerned about extracts. Certainly there are healthy ways to create extracts, and these concentrates are necessary to treat certain disorders, but we don't know about pesticides.

Florida Cannabis Action Network had our regular team meeting today, and one of the things that we're moving forward with in Florida is studies with the Department of Agriculture, whose job it is to approve pesticides, and the Florida Department of Agriculture understands that a pesticide that might be okeh processed in the liver, when you eat it on lettuce, is certainly not the same as concentrating it, putting it in a pen, and then vaporizing it through your lungs.

So, I'm very concerned about that, but you know, anybody who lives in a legal market should be concerned about pesticides in their medicine.

DEAN BECKER: Well, what you brought forward there is certainly overlooked, that you take a fairly huge amount of cannabis and you run it through the process to extract the oil, and take it down to grams, take ounces, turn it into grams, it's multiplied thirty, fifty, maybe a hundred times, the effect of that pesticide.

JODI JAMES: Correct.


JODI JAMES: Then again, you know, what a compromised immune system can handle compared to what my immune system, in a perfect world, can handle is very different.

I understand the attraction of the oils, the idea that you can get a measured dose, the idea that you can get a consistent dose, but you know magic is science that we don't understand, and there's an awful lot of magic to cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: Yes there is, for so many different maladies, everything from constipation to headaches and beyond, it's quite, quite a medicine.

Well, I'll tell you what folks, we've been speaking with Ms. Jodi James with the Cannabis Action Network, based in Florida, and Jodi, closing thoughts, your website?

JODI JAMES: Well, thank you Dean. Certainly, our website is You can find a place real easy to sign up so that you can get our regular alerts. We have been blessed, but you know, it's a persistent force, and it's that persistent force that has just worn things down.

One of our senators said to us, I don't know, ten or twelve years ago, you want to legalize drugs? Keep showing up. And so that's what we've done. We just keep showing up, and we have found where cannabis and drug policy in general are relevant to other issues that are important to lawmakers, and as a result we have made cannabis more important every year.

And now we're seeing things like rights restoration and mandatory minimums, and, you know, I think that when you start by having a force like ours, Cannabis Action Network, in there, talking about the harms associated with prohibition policy, it opens the door for more people to have conversations, and as a result we are just really seeing a real uprising of people here in Florida who want to talk about justice.

DEAN BECKER: Last month, Drug Truth Network reporter Doug McVay was up in New Jersey attending the Patients Out of Time conference. While there, he captured a speech given by Shaleen Title. She's a Commissioner on the Massachusetts Cannabis Commission, an attorney and long time drug policy reformer. Shaleen Title.

SHALEEN TITLE: First I just want to say how much I appreciate the invitation to speak here, and how much respect I have for Patients Out of Time. I really love talking to the organizations that have been doing this from the beginning, since before there was an industry, and the organizations that are in this really for the right reasons, so, appreciate the opportunity.

So, I was asked to speak about fairness and cannabis business licensing, and I really appreciate that, because I'm usually asked to speak about our equity program in Massachusetts, and my specific focus, which has been on racial justice, and that gets a lot of attention, but there's no point in having an equity program if you're licensing scheme isn't fair to begin with.

If you were to have some of these barriers to entry, like $500,000 capital requirements, or a tiny number of licenses, and then make an equity program, that's akin to like a big company making a diversity plan that doesn't actually do anything.

So, if you're in a state, you're trying to be fair, you're trying to address social justice and the harms of the war on drugs, the first thing you have to start with is fairness.

So, first to just orient my perspective, so, I've been an activist in this area for about 15 years, and was particularly inspired by people like Deb Small and Michelle Alexander. When we started talking about business licenses and there was a movement in Massachusetts that, basically, legalization was not going to happen unless we did it in a way that was fair and equitable.

So, long story short, to their credit, Massachusetts legislators really took that to heart, and so they created a brand new cannabis commission, to be the regulating agency. There are five people on it, and each of them has a different area of expertise. There's public safety, public health, business, government regulation, and then the last seat is for someone with social justice experience.

And to my great surprise, because I -- normally activist millennials don't get appointed to high level government office. I got put in that seat. So they were basically like, if you care this much about racial justice, like, here's the keys and do it.

So, I've been doing that for eight to nine months now, and so we spent the first two, three months really looking in detail at other licensing schemes, what other states were doing with their medical programs, to try to make them fair and more diverse, and localities in California, like Oakland, to begin with, but also LA, Sacramento, several other cities that have been leading the way in equity.

So I would like to share a few lessons with you that I think are the most important, as we've had this focus. And let me say first, also, that I am in no way doing a victory lap here, because Massachusetts has yet to issue its first license. Under state law, we can't do that until June First, so we're very much in the beginning, so I'm sharing with you as a team effort where we're at, but, you know, if you would invite me back next year I'm sure I'll have plenty to say about the lessons learned as well.

So first, the most important thing, in my view, is, there should be no caps on the number of state licenses. And we learned this the hard way in Massachusetts. When our medical program passed in 2012, the idea was, let's start out slow and make this palatable, so we're going to start with 35 licenses, and people were referring to them as "golden tickets." Just like, red flag number one. This is not how you want to start out.

And, you know, and I've been a marijuana business lawyer, like, there's nothing wrong with people acting in their rational self interest, but when you set up a scheme like that, you are making incentives for people to do the sketchiest things they could possibly do to get one of these 35 licenses.

So, there are no caps at the state level in Massachusetts. The number of licenses that will be issued are the number of applicants that come to us that meet the suitability requirements.

Some people have asked, well, what do you do about preventing diversion? We don't want stores on every single street corner. So we have a limit that no person or business can own or control more than three licenses. There's also a hundred thousand square foot cap per licensee.

So there's other ways that you can, if you want to, you know, keep it small to begin with, it doesn't have to be by a small number of huge licenses.

The second part of that is, local approval, and bear with me because this is going to sound a little bit insider baseball-y, but to me, it's been the biggest challenge in Massachusetts, and if I had a time machine and I could go back and address it, this is the thing I would address.

So, I really want to impart this knowledge unto people. So in Massachusetts, at the state level, there are no caps. There's an equity program. However, in order to get a business license, you have to get local approval, at the city or town level. So, under state law, there was an effort to try to make this fair, so that you couldn't just go into a city or town and kind of like offer to give the most money back to that city or town, and then get their approval.

So, some cities and towns in Massachusetts have been wonderful, they've approached us about how to do their own equity program. Some have had very robust application processes. Others have had a lot of public scrutiny placed on them because they're trying to, it looks like, go outside of the limits in the law.

So here's the main limit in the law, when it comes to local approval. When a city or town decides that they can only have a certain number in their locality, let's say, four. The business and the community have to put together an agreement of how they will work together, and submit that to the state. So once the state sees that, okeh, you're good, you can go to the next step.

So in that agreement, you can put in how much money that community is going to give to the city or town to make up for the costs that are coming to the city or town. And they have to be the number, and the costs have to be reasonably related and documented. And there's a limit in Massachusetts of three percent of revenue.

So the city or town would get three percent of revenue of the business, and a three percent tax. Now, what we've seen in some of these agreements is a limit of three percent, but also a donation to the city or town of tens of thousands of dollars.

And right now in Massachusetts, there is no clear way to enforce what seems to a lot of people, what looks like to be going outside of the law. So, my suggestion to anyone who is worried about fairness in their state, in a cannabis licensing scheme, is to ensure that there is some sort of mechanism to enforce that, because it sounds like a small detail, it's not something you necessarily think of in the beginning, but that is what is happening in Massachusetts.

Second item is access to small businesses throughout every part of the regulatory process. And this is something I'm really proud of. All five of the people on the commission have been supportive of making sure that we're thinking about small businesses in every decision.

So for example, fees are waived for equity applicants, the application fees. The fees for seed to sale software are waived for equity applicants, microbusinesses, and co-ops. We set an environmental standard of the efficiency of the lights that you use, and the wattage rate was a bit -- a bit greater to allow for more flexibility for the smaller businesses.

So these types of decisions, they really add up to make it possible for small businesses to be able to be part of the industry, and to make it more fair. So no caps, access to small businesses, and then the third item I would mention is priority. I think it's been a trend that, when a medical program moves to an adult use program in a state, that those medical facilities often get priority, because they're already in the business of producing and selling marijuana to be the first to open in the adult use as well.

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

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DEAN BECKER: Well, we heard how things are panning out, slowly, down there in Florida, but today we're also going to go up to British Columbia, Canada, going to see what's going on up there. I keep seeing news articles that the senators are fine tuning the new law that's due to go into effect in the next couple of weeks, I suppose, and here to talk about it is my good friend from up that way, in British Columbia, Mister Matt Elrod. How are you doing, Matt?

MATT ELROD: I'm good, Dean, thanks.

DEAN BECKER: You know, I see it as a long unfolding of this new marijuana law up there, and it is still being fine tuned by the senators, it will -- by your parliament, or your house, I guess it is, and it's also going to be fine tuned by the provinces and the cities as well, as it unfolds. Is that right?

MATT ELROD: Yeah, it's -- some would argue that it's been hasty in fact, critics of the legalization have criticized the government for being hasty, but you're right, it's been a long time coming.

And you're also right that when the federal government relinquishes criminal control over all these aspects of cannabis, it will be relegated to the provinces to do the on the ground regulation.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and we have the big folks, Tweed and a couple of other major corporations, that have massive warehouses already growing cannabis, and probably going to take major control of the industry. Would you agree?

MATT ELROD: Yeah, they got a head start in that Canada legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes in 2001, and shortly thereafter started allowing so-called licensed producers to set up shop to meet that demand, and they have long anticipated that we might legalize for broader purposes, and so they have a first starter advantage, for sure.

The legislation does allow for various grades, or sizes, or licensed producers, from what they call micro to a sort of medium sized player to the large players, but, yes, we can anticipate consolidation and the big fish eating the little fish, I think. Expect, you know, I've heard in Oregon the wholesale price has dropped through the floor, and I would expect the same thing to happen here.

So, yeah, I'm leery of investing in the industry, for that reason, because, you know, one of the provisions of the Canadian bill C-45 is to allow for personal cultivation. Now one of the last minute senate amendments was that they were going to grant the provinces the authority to prohibit personal cultivation individually. Now, so far, two provinces, I think Manitoba and Quebec, have opted to do that, to prohibit personal cultivation.

But, everywhere else, consumers will be able to grow up to four plants. I don't know how many will do that, but that's also likely to depress the street value of cannabis, and so, yeah, the profits that big companies are anticipating may not be so big. You know, it's a mixed bag, and as you often say, we don't know what's in that bag.

They say it's going to be a process, not an event, and I expect some of the provisions will be challenged in court. You know, our medical marijuana laws were challenged numerous times, and struck down as unconstitutional different provisions of them, so you're quite right. It will be fine tuned over a long period of time, I'm sure.

DEAN BECKER: And, Matt, a website you might want to share?

MATT ELROD: Oh, well, your listeners might want to check out, which is sort of my primary website, and links to the Media Awareness Project, which has news clippings from all around the English world, including Canada.

DEAN BECKER: Again, I want to thank Matt Elrod and the other good folks. You know, the senators who are putting forward that bill to basically legalize marijuana at the federal level, I urge you to contact your representatives, you can get some good links at, Marijuana Policy Project, and at NORML,

Until we end this war on drugs, we'll be forever subject to an increasing escalation of the violence, disease, corruption, death, and destruction that comes not from drugs but from drug prohibition. I consider all drug laws to be racist, bigoted, and a violation of our civil rights, and as always, I remind you, because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag, and I urge you to please, be careful.

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